Aramco Is Alone Among Big Oil in Keeping Media Out of AGMs

(Bloomberg) -- Saudi Aramco is in a class of its own -- the most valuable and profitable company in the world. It’s also alone among Big Oil in keeping media out of annual general meetings.

Late on Monday, the Saudi state producer holds its first AGM since a record initial public offering in December. Investors can vote to approve 2019 results and appoint an auditor. Journalists haven’t been invited.

The next morning Aramco will release first-quarter earnings, though there won’t be a conference call or management presentation for analysts or the press.

While the coronavirus pandemic has forced companies to rethink public gatherings and pushed meetings online, Aramco’s rivals such as Exxon Mobil Corp., BP Plc and Chevron Corp. at least plan to provide open web access to AGM proceedings. Royal Dutch Shell Plc will hold an investor question-and-answer session ahead of its annual assembly next week.

Wall Street vs Middle East

Aramco didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Chief Executive Officer Amin Nasser and finance head Khalid Al-Dabbagh last briefed analysts on a March 16 conference call to discuss full-year earnings. Media were invited to listen in on that.

What’s normal on Wall Street or in London isn’t necessarily so in the Middle East. Many companies in the region only allow shareholders into their AGMs. Dubai developer Emaar Properties Pjsc has been one of few to hold open assemblies -- Chairman Mohamed Alabbar has held forth in ballrooms at one of the company’s hotels, answering questions on anything from real estate prices to the local economy.

Monday’s AGM begins at 10 p.m. local time. Starting at that hour is not out of the ordinary for Gulf companies during the month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast during daylight hours and traditionally gather for prayer and meals after sunset. The timing may also allow Aramco’s international investors to listen in from London or New York. Not that there are many of them -- the IPO in Riyadh turned out to be a mostly domestic affair.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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