FILE PHOTO: A Saudi Aramco employee sits in the area of its stand at the Middle East Petrotech 2016, an exhibition and conference for the refining and petrochemical industries, in Manama, Bahrain, September 27, 2016. Picture: Hamad I Mohammed / Reuters
JOHANNESBURG - Saudi Aramco’s initial public offering is on track for next year and the national oil giant could be valued at more than $2trillion (R28.5trillion) according to Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

The sale of around 5 percent of Aramco next year is a centrepiece of Vision 2030, an ambitious reform plan to diversify the Saudi economy beyond oil which is championed by Prince Mohammad.

Saudis have said domestic and international exchanges such as New York, London, Tokyo and Hong Kong have been looked at for a partial listing of the state-run firm.

A decision on which exchange would secure the offering has still not been made, fuelling market speculation that the IPO could be delayed beyond 2018 or even shelved, amid growing concerns about the feasibility of an international listing.

“We are on track in 2018 but the listing (details) are still under discussion,” said Prince Mohammad.

“It will be IPO-ed in 2018.” The crown prince declined to discuss specific details of the IPO, which could be the biggest in history and is expected to raise as much as $100billion.

Prince Mohammad, 32, has sweeping powers over defence, energy and the economy and is expected to take the final decision about Aramco’s listing venue and the other reforms. Investors have long debated whether Aramco could be valued anywhere close to $2trillion, the figure announced by the crown prince, who wants to raise cash through the IPO to finance investments aimed at helping wean the world’s biggest oil exporting nation off its dependency on crude.

But Prince Mohammad reiterated that Aramco’s estimated valuation would be about $2trillion. “Actually, when I talked about the valuation, I talked about $2trillion. It could be more than that,” he said. 

- REUTERS