Saudi Arabia Replaces Aramco Chairman With Wealth Fund Chief

Khalid Al-Falih, seen here, will be replaced as the chairman of Aramco by Yasir Al-Rumayyan, head of the Kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund

Saudi Arabia has named Yasir Al-Rumayyan, head of the country’s sovereign wealth fund, as chairman of Saudi Aramco, replacing Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih, a Saudi official said.

Al-Falih has been removed from his position as Saudi Aramco chair as the government prepares to sell shares in the state-owned oil company.

The appointment of Al-Rumayyan, already an Aramco board member, is intended to separate the Ministry of Energy from Aramco and avoid any conflicts of interest as the company prepares for the upcoming IPO, the source said.

When he was first appointed a minister in 2016, Al-Falih directed a U-turn in Saudi policy in the face of a US shale boom and tumbling crude prices.

He led the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to agree to reduce output for the first time in eight years, starting in January 2017 and persuaded other big producers including Russia to join in the cuts.

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As the decrease failed to re-balance the market, Al-Falih organized extensions of the curbs, involving roughly 60% of the world’s oil output, through March 2020.

On Friday, Al-Falih’s portfolio was restructured when the government announced it was splitting the industry and mining functions from the Energy Ministry.

Al-Rumayyan is governor of the Public Investment Fund (PIF), leading the fund’s transformation from a sleepy domestic holding company into one of the biggest investors in global technology start-ups.

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The fund has accumulated stakes in electric carmaker Tesla Inc, ride-sharing company Uber Technologies Inc and has made a $45 billion commitment to SoftBank Group Corp.’s $100 billion technology fund.

Al-Rumayyan, a former banker with Saudi Fransi Capital, is a key adviser to Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman since being hired to join the Royal Court in 2015.

Aramco, the world’s most profitable company, is stepping up preparations for the sale of a stake to the public. International banks started pitching for a role in the IPO last week, people familiar with the IPO told Bloomberg.

The IPO is the cornerstone of Prince Muhammad’s plan to revamp the Saudi economy by attracting foreign investment and building new industries.

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