The world's most valuable company: Saudi Arabia puts $1.7 trillion price tag on its oil monopoly
Posted November 17, 2019 6:25 a.m. EST
CNN — Saudi Arabia believes its giant state oil monopoly is worth as much as $1.7 trillion.
In a statement Sunday, Saudi Aramco said it was aiming to sell about 1.5% of its 200 billion shares in a partial privatization for between 30 riyals ($8) and 32 riyals ($8.53) each.
That means Aramco, the most profitable company in the world, could be worth between 6 trillion riyals ($1.6 trillion) and 6.4 trillion riyals ($1.7 trillion) — making it also by far the world's most valuable company ahead of Apple.
That won't be the only record to fall if Aramco achieves the higher price: at that level, the share sale would raise just over $25 billion, making it slightly bigger than Alibaba's 2014 debut on the New York Stock Exchange, so far the world's biggest IPO.
Saudi Arabia is selling shares in Aramco for the first time as part of an economic diversification plan aimed at weaning the kingdom off oil.
Aramco has vast oil reserves and massive daily output. It holds a monopoly in Saudi Arabia, the world's largest exporter of crude. It made $111 billion in profit in 2018, and has promised to pay an annual dividend of $75 billion through 2024.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had reportedly sought a valuation for Aramco near $2 trillion. But low oil prices, the climate crisis and geopolitical risk have raised skepticism among international investors. Up to 0.5% of the company will be sold to individuals, with the remainder offered to institutional investors.
Aramco may need to heavily rely on rich local families, sympathetic sovereign wealth funds or major customers such as China signing up for shares. Reuters reported Sunday that Aramco will not market the IPO abroad.
The price for the shares will be set on December 5, with trading on the Saudi stock exchange expected to start later that month, according to Aramco's prospectus.
Wall Street's biggest names are advising Saudi Arabia on the privatization, despite pressure from activists who say financing fossil fuel companies will worsen the climate crisis. They have also urged banks not to do business with the kingdom because of its human rights record, including the brutal murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
Aramco listed Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Morgan Stanley and HSBC as joint financial advisers on the transaction. They have all previously declined to comment to CNN Business.
— John Defterios and Julia Horowitz contributed to this article.