Speculation has been building that the man spearheading reform, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, may crown his ascent quite literally by becoming king after his father steps down from the throne, possibly as soon as this month.
This is what you call a fast-track career. In less than three years, the prince has become the defense minister, launched the country into an intense war in Yemen, emerged as the point man on the wide-ranging “Vision 2030” reform program, become Crown Prince — in part via a classic bit of late-night palace intrigue sidelining the old one — and put the squeeze on Qatar.
If MBS becomes king of Saudi Arabia, he faces years of slow growth and fiscal deficits
“Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown” wasn’t written about a millennial king trying to overhaul his oil-dependent country in the midst of an oil crash and several wars, but it seems apt enough.
Still, some quick wins could be needed. And I’m speculating here, but the obvious quick win is … the IPO of Saudi Aramco. The prince could continue trying to prop up oil prices ahead of selling shares.
Like the tide, though, even a king can’t command the world’s investors and algorithms. Lining up strategic investors — an old standby for this sort of debut — may not help much, either: China knows Saudi Arabia must send ever more of its barrels east, so why pay a premium merely to confirm the obvious?
Source Credit: Bloomberg
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