Saudi Aramco Shares Surge After Debut
Initial Public Offering nearly Touches Valuation Target
Despite dire predictions from analysts, Saudi Aramco’s freshly launched share soared on the national Tadawul exchange in Riyadh in the early days of trading, nearly touching Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s $2 trillion valuation target.
After the long awaited launch on Dec. 9, the shares of the world’s largest oil producer gained 10% on both of the two following days. An accolade that surely pleased the prince was that it was the biggest initial public offering on record. Up to Dec. 12, Aramco had added $300 billion to its coffers.
The vast majority of stock purchases were Saudis, including 97% of retail buyers and 75% of institutional investors. The figures seem to confirm earlier observations that wary international buyers regarded the price as too high and reports that wealthy Saudis were courted as investors.
Following the stock surge, some analysts continued to insist that the valuation was too high, despite the Kingdom being the world’s largest oil exporter. Bernstein Research noted that weak outlook for earnings growth and “little or no upside for global oil prices” should drag the paper down. The bank puts Aramco’s worth in the range of $1.4 trillion.
Bernstein’s view is that Aramco should trade at a discount rather than a premium to international oil majors. Its analysts noted that more than 98% of the company is still owned by the Saudi government, indicating that investors should be concerned about corporate governance.
Only 1.5% of the oil producer’s shares have been listed, the ipo having been scaled back considerably against original plans. As late as 2018, the Saudi government had discussed floating 5% of the company on international markets such as New York or London – in addition to Riyadh – with the aim of raising as much as $100 billion.
After months of haggling over Aramco’s value, the future of the fossil fuel economy, geopolitical risks and potential legal complications in the US, the listing was put on ice following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, but revived earlier this year with a narrower scope.