Saudi Aramco takes another step toward 1st public offering

World
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Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil giant Aramco will sell up to 0.5% of its shares to individual investors, but still unknown how much of the company will be floated this December

Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil giant Aramco revealed it will sell up to 0.5% of its shares to individual investors, but in a lengthy document published late Saturday it did not disclose how much of the company will be floated when it goes public on the country’s domestic exchange.

Still, the highly-anticipated sale of even just a sliver of the company is expected to make this the world’s biggest initial public offering. Saudi Aramco is the most profitable company globally, producing more than 10 million barrels of crude oil a day, or some 10% of global demand.

Despite questions over Aramco’s valuation and how much of the company will ultimately be for sale on Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul stock exchange, the company’s size and profitability has made it undeniably attractive to potential investors. Trading could begin as soon as Dec. 11, according to state-linked media.

The oil and gas company had profits of $111 billion last year, more than Apple, Royal Dutch Shell and Exxon Mobil combined.

In a roughly 650-page preliminary prospectus, Aramco said the offering period for investors will begin Nov. 17. It will close for individual investors on Nov. 28 and for institutional investors on Dec. 4. Aramco will price its shares on Dec. 5, according to the document.

The company stated its plans to pay out an annual dividend of at least $75 billion starting in 2020, but questions linger over how much Aramco is worth.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has said the company is worth some $2 trillion, but analysts estimate the value is closer to $1.5 trillion.

The kingdom’s plan to sell a small percentage of the company is part of an ambitious economic overhaul spearheaded by the crown prince to raise new streams of revenue for the oil-dependent country, particularly as oil prices struggle to reach the $75 to $80 price range per barrel analysts say is needed to balance Saudi Arabia’s budget. Brent crude closed Friday at around $62 a barrel.

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This story corrects figure to $1.5 trillion in penultimate paragraph.

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