KSA debating shape of Aramco ahead of IPO

"There are two options being studied now. Either to make Aramco a pure oil and gas company, or a conglomerate and expand its role in petrochemicals and other sectors," said Reuters' sources.

A banking source familiar with the IPO preparations said the government was studying a "clean-up exercise" to make Aramco's structure neater.
A banking source familiar with the IPO preparations said the government was studying a "clean-up exercise" to make Aramco's structure neater.

Saudi Arabia is considering two options for the shape of Saudi Aramco when it sells shares in the national oil giant next year: a global industrial conglomerate, and a specialised international oil company, industry and banking sources said, according to Reuters.

When the plan was publicly released in June last year, it pledged to "transform Aramco from an oil-producing company into a global industrial conglomerate".

But now Saudi officials and their advisers are debating whether to make Aramco "a Korean chaebol", as one source said, referring to sprawling South Korean conglomerates, or a specialised company focused purely on oil and gas.
A specialised company might be easier to value because of its simplicity and, since the risks in its business would be clearer, achieve a higher price for its shares.

"There are two options being studied now. Either to make Aramco a pure oil and gas company, or a conglomerate and expand its role in petrochemicals and other sectors," said a Saudi industry source, declining to be identified because the debate is being conducted in private, reported Reuters.

An Aramco spokesperson said, "Saudi Aramco does not comment on rumour or speculation."

Other than its core oil and gas production, exploration and refining businesses, Aramco - which employs more than 55,000 people - has plans to build solar and wind power facilities.

As the kingdom's biggest company and one of its most efficient, it is being pressed into service to jump-start industrial projects that are too big or daunting for the private sector. It is developing a $5bn ship repair and building complex on the east coast, and working with General Electric on a $400mn forging and casting venture.

It has also often been tasked with executing government projects that have social goals, such as building industrial cities, stadiums and cultural centres. It was involved in creating the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.

As the IPO approaches, officials are asking themselves whether the domestic and international investors who will be asked to buy Aramco shares really want exposure to such a complicated array of assets.

A banking source familiar with the IPO preparations said the government was studying a "clean-up exercise" to make Aramco's structure neater.

One option under study is moving all businesses not related to oil to a separate entity before the IPO, although this would be a complex process, the sources said to Reuters.

"It is going to be a legal nightmare for them. And the more they dig, the more they find out issues they need to sort out," an industry source said.

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