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December 12, 2019

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Aramco’s shares soar, now largest listed firm

Saudi Aramco’s shares soared on debut on the Riyadh stock exchange yesterday, becoming the world’s biggest listed company worth US$1.88 trillion after a record-breaking IPO.

Aramco had priced the initial public offering at 32 riyals (US$8.53) per share, raising US$25.6 billion and eclipsing Alibaba’s US$25 billion IPO of 2014 to become the world’s largest.

Aramco shares rose 10 percent to 35.2 riyals just seconds after trading began on Riyadh’s Tadawul exchange, the maximum allowed on any trading day, further boosting the energy giant’s valuation.

“Today is a day of immense pride for Aramco,” company chief executive Amin Nasser said at a glitzy launch ceremony. “Today we make history as Saudi Aramco marks the beginning of an important new chapter in our company’s journey of prosperity.”

‘Patriotic duty’

The stock sale is the bedrock of de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ambitious strategy to overhaul the oil-reliant economy.

Wealthy Saudi families are reportedly under pressure from the government to invest in the Aramco stock, with nationalists calling it a patriotic duty.

Aramco also dangled sweeteners for local investors, including promises of higher dividends and the possibility of bonus shares if they hold on to the stock.

The IPO process had put the energy giant’s value at US$1.7 trillion, far ahead of other firms in the trillion-dollar club including Apple and Microsoft.

The listing of Aramco, with its huge capital value, boosts the Saudi bourse — known as Tadawul — to the ranks of the world’s top 10.

But the scaled-down offering is still a far cry from the blockbuster originally planned by Prince Mohammed who had eyed a US$2 trillion valuation.

The much-delayed stock sale, first announced in 2016, was initially expected to raise as much as US$100 billion from the listing of up to 5 percent of the company.

The government’s plans to raise additional funds by listing on a major international market are also on hold.

The government is now trying to persuade wealthy families and institutions to buy Aramco shares after trading begins, in a last-ditch effort to reach the US$2 trillion mark, the Financial Times reported on Tuesday.


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