Geopolitics and conflicts hit Aramco’s IPO, Crown Prince turns East
The Aramco IPO, possibly the largest IPO listing of a company ever on stock exchanges, is sailing into uncharted waters. After almost four years of hinting at a US$2 trillion valuation and listings on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and London Stock Exchange (LSE), geopolitics, regional conflict and an unstable global oil market are taking their toll. Since 17 November the official valuation of Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil company, which is also called the political instrument of the Kingdom, has been set at around US$1.7 billion, way below expectations. Financial analysts are also being confronted with the fact that Saudi Arabia has decided not only to only list the company at the Saudi Tadawul Stock Exchange but also to cancel its highly expected international road show to promote Aramco’s share potential to institutional and other investors. Even after the listing is complete, the future of Aramco seems to still be openly in the hands of the Saudi Royal Family in the person of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), who was the main proponent of the Aramco listing from the start. The change in the marketing approach for the IPO, which is still looking to dwarf others such as Alibaba, should, however, be assessed thoroughly over the coming months.