Saudi Bourse CEO Sees Aramco IPO as ‘Certain’ Despite Delay

(Bloomberg) -- Saudi Arabia’s bourse is in no doubt that state-owned oil giant Aramco will eventually list its shares on the local stock market following a delay in what was going to be one of the world’s largest IPOs.

“I’m certain Aramco will join the market,” Khalid Abdullah Al Hussan, the chief executive officer of the Saudi stock market, said in an interview in Riyadh on Wednesday. “The decision has been made to take the company public, and the government has announced, several times, that they are looking at the proper time for listing Aramco.”

Al Hussan declined to give more details on the possible timing of the share sale. The Tadawul All Share Index fell as much as 4.6 percent on Wednesday before closing 3.1 percent lower, the biggest slide since September 2016, amid a rout in emerging market assets.

Put On Ice

Aramco’s initial public offering was put on ice last month so it can focus on buying a stake in local petrochemical group Sabic for as much as $70 billion. Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said at the time that the government would pursue the share sale “at a time of its own choosing when conditions are optimum.” He declined to be specific on the timing of the IPO. Saudi officials were looking at raising as much as $100 billion, based on a $2 trillion valuation that some analysts have said was too high.

In the meantime, the bourse is pushing ahead with improvements to the local market to attract foreign investors, the CEO said.

It aims to start a derivatives market by the first half of next year with the trading of future contracts on an index it is jointly developing with MSCI Inc., he said, adding that the composition of the index hasn’t been determined yet. Single stock futures and options are expected by 2020, Al Hussan said.

Saudi Arabia will join the group of countries that MSCI and FTSE Russell classify as emerging markets from 2019. The country’s main stock gauge has climbed about 9 percent this year. Most of the foreigners buying shares in Riyadh currently are based in the U.S. and in the U.K., according to Al Hussan.

The kingdom remains a viable market “even without Aramco,” said Henry Fernandez, MSCI’s chairman and CEO. He said that there is still interest from foreign investors despite the government’s decision to postpone the share sale, with their main concerns being global political turmoil.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.