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Saudi energy minister denies report on cancelled Aramco IPO

Tokyo — Saudi Arabian Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih denied a media report Thursday that the kingdom had cancelled a planned initial public offering of state oil company Saudi Aramco.

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"The Government remains committed to the IPO of Saudi Aramco at a time of its own choosing when conditions are optimum," Falih said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

"This timing will depend on multiple factors, including favorable market conditions, and a downstream acquisition which the Company will pursue in the next few months, as directed by its Board of Directors," he said.

Reuters reported Wednesday that Saudi Arabia has cancelled its long-mooted public listing of Aramco, citing industry sources who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Saudi Arabia has dismissed the financial advisors it had hired to work on the initial public offering, and shifted its focus to having Aramco acquire a strategic stake in Saudi petrochemicals firm Sabic from the state Public Investment Fund, the Reuters report said.

Aramco CEO Amin Nasser recently said the Sabic acquisition could delay the IPO until 2020 or later.

The IPO of Aramco was the centerpiece of Saudi Arabia's ambitious economic reforms, known as Vision 2030. The plan was to use the proceeds from listing up to 5% of the company's shares to fund programs that would diversify the economy, and reduce Saudi Arabia's reliance on oil revenues.

Riyadh has said the IPO could value the state energy giant at $2 trillion.

However, it has been often delayed as Saudi Arabia sought a higher oil-price environmental to bring the company public, and officials clashed over how to proceed, including on disclosure requirements and the venue for the listing.

New York and London were among the international stock exchanges vying for the prized listing, while Saudi officials had said shares could be initially sold on the domestic exchange in Riyadh, the Tadawul.

Saudi Arabia had also reportedly considered private placements of shares in Aramco.

-- Takeo Kumagai, takeo.kumagai@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Norazlina Jumaat, norazlina.jumaat@spglobal.com