Aramco sale likely to be delayed

The stock market flotation of Saudi Arabia’s state oil company is likely to be delayed until next year, according to the country’s energy minister, confirming mounting speculation that the world’s biggest IPO was running behind schedule.

Saudi Aramco plans to raise $100bn by selling a 5% stake, dwarfing the $21bn raised by China’s Alibaba Group and valuing the business at $2tn. Stock exchanges in London, New York and Hong Kong have been lobbying for the right to float the company, with Saudi officials repeatedly maintaining it was on track to take place later this year.

In January the firm lauded a royal decree converting Saudi Aramco into a joint stock company, a key step allowing it to have more shareholders than its existing one, the Saudi kingdom.

However, industry watchers have been increasingly sceptical that the timeline was likely to be kept, with British officials saying recently that the 2018 target would be missed. Doubts have also been fuelled by the lack so far of any prospectus for investors.

On Friday, the Saudi energy minister, Khalid al-Falih, appeared to officially confirm a delay. “Most likely it will be in 2019 but we will not know until the announcement has been made,” he told a conference in St Petersburg.

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