Saudi Approves IPO Of World’s Most Profitable Company

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Saudi Arabia finally kicked off what could be the world’s biggest initial public offering.

More than three years after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman first raised the idea — and just three weeks after a plan to launch the share sale was abruptly shelved – oil giant Saudi Aramco announced its intention on Sunday to list shares on the local stock exchange in Riyadh. That came shortly after the Capital Market Authority approved the offering.

The number and percentage of Aramco shares to be sold will be determined at the end of the book-building period, according to the company’s announcement of its intention to list. Trading is likely to start in December.

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Aramco, which pumps about 10% of the world’s oil, generated the most profit of any corporation last year with net income of $111 billion — more than Apple Inc., Google’s parent Alphabet Inc. and Exxon Mobil Corp. combined. The company was targeting a $2 trillion valuation — more than double that of Apple – but the kingdom is now ready to accept a valuation of $1.6 trillion to $1.8 trillion to ensure the IPO is a success, according to people briefed on the matter.

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The sale is key to Prince Mohammed’s Vision 2030 plan to overhaul the Saudi economy and end the kingdom’s reliance on oil exports. The proceeds from the IPO will boost the firepower of the OPEC nation’s sovereign wealth fund, which already has investments in funds managed by Blackstone Group LP and SoftBank Group Corp.

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