Saudi Aramco’s IPO Prospectus Doesn’t Reveal How Much It Plans to Sell

Saudi Arabia moved a step closer toward listing its national oil giant Aramco on its domestic exchange, releasing the preliminary prospectus late Saturday for what is slated to be the world’s largest initial public offering.

However, the energy giant indicated that it won’t disclose how much it plans to sell of the company or raise from the offering until early December, depending on ultimate investor demand.

After months of uncertainty about how much Aramco intends to list, the more than 600-page prospectus provides additional information about the company’s operations. The Saudi government aims to show investors why it believes the Saudi Arabian Oil Co., known as Aramco, should be valued above its oil and gas peers.

Still key details that investors are focused on were missing. The company reiterated plans to pay out an annual dividend of at least $75 billion starting in 2020 and signaled that increases as well as special dividends could follow over time.

The hefty dividend is expected to attract both domestic and international investors who place a premium on investments that generate steady income. However, without knowing the valuation that Aramco is targeting from the IPO, it is difficult for investors to accurately compare the dividend yield of the state-owned energy company with its publicly traded rivals such as

Exxon Mobil Corp.

among others.

It isn’t uncommon for companies to withhold the targeted amount of shares to be sold and the valuation range for an IPO in an initial prospectus if demand for the offering is unclear. The Aramco IPO is among the most closely watched offerings in recent years because of its size and its intended role in raising funding to help the country diversify its economy.

In the prospectus, Aramco indicated that it would determine the IPO pricing and the percentage of the company to be sold in the offering at the end of the book-building period. That runs from Nov. 17 to Dec. 4, during which time institutional investors will be expected to submit orders. Individual investors have until Nov. 28 to submit a request for shares, according to the prospectus. Aramco and its advisers will use this marketing period to determine the offering’s price and issue size based on demand ahead of the company’s planned listing on the local Tadawul stock exchange.

Crown Prince

Mohammed bin Salman,

the kingdom’s day-to-day ruler, has put the firm’s value at $2 trillion. But bankers working on the deal have said Aramco’s valuation is between $1.3 trillion and $1.7 trillion. In an online roadshow presentation last week, Aramco said the oil giant is worth $1.5 trillion at an oil price of $45 a barrel; $1.76 trillion at $65; and $2.1 trillion at $75.

Brent crude, the global benchmark, closed at just under $62.61 a barrel on Friday.

Aramco said it can generate a return on capital, a key investor metric, of 30%-35% each year compared with the 5%-10% that peers such as BP PLC, Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Exxon have achieved in recent years, according to the investor presentation.

To anchor the sale, Aramco has talked to sovereign-wealth funds in Abu Dhabi, Singapore and Malaysia and organized meetings with the Chinese government, but none of the funds has so far committed to buy into the IPO, The Wall Street Journal has reported. Aramco also is expected to lean on Saudi pension funds, which are largely government run, to buy into the offering.

The prospectus issued Saturday highlighted the risks to investing in Aramco. Most concerning for investors is likely to be the relationship between Aramco and the government, led by Prince Mohammed. The economy is powered by the oil that Aramco sells, and although the Saudi leader wants to use the proceeds of the listing to invest in new non-oil industries, he may still need to tap the firm for dividends.

Other risks listed range from the fallout of climate change on the demand and price of oil to the potential disruption of Aramco oil production to terrorist attacks and other forms of armed conflict. Investors have already raised concerns about the security of Aramco’s assets following attacks on oil facilities in September that for a time knocked out half of the firm’s production.

Write to Ben Dummett at [email protected], Rory Jones at [email protected] and Summer Said at [email protected]

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