Aramco Closes Just Below $2 Trillion Goal in Second-Day Gain
(Bloomberg) -- Saudi Aramco shares rose for a second day, but the oil giant failed to hold on to the $2 trillion valuation that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had long targeted.
The stock climbed 4.6% to close at 36.80 riyals in Riyadh, finishing at $1.96 trillion. Aramco earlier rose as much as 10%, the daily limit, in trading of 418 million shares, up from 31.6 million Wednesday.
The gain, which follows a 10% surge on Wednesday, reflects the kingdom’s efforts to engineer a successful start to trading after international investors balked at the price in the initial public offering. Saudi Arabia encouraged local individuals to purchase and hold the stock through cheap loans and a bonus-share plan, while pushing wealthy families and regional allies to buy as well.
The offering consisted of only 1.5% of Aramco’s stock, so that investors who didn’t get allocated shares in the IPO had to buy in the secondary market.
“We were expecting this IPO to be a blockbuster, and the performance in the past two days shows that was the case,” said Vijay Valecha, chief investment officer at Century Financial Consultancy LLC in Dubai, who has high-net-worth individuals from the Gulf among his clients. “From the appetite we see for the stock, there is room for it to climb another 10% to 18% next week.”
Aramco raised $25.6 billion in the deal, selling shares at 32 riyals each and overtaking Microsoft Corp. and Apple Inc. as the most valuable listed company.
The IPO has become synonymous with the crown prince and his efforts to reshape the economy of the world’s biggest oil exporter. But his insistence on the $2 trillion valuation deterred international investors, many of whom said the stock was too expensive given governance and geopolitical concerns.
Analysts at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. said after the first trading day that it’s already time to cash out. In a Bloomberg survey last month, global money managers put Aramco’s fair value at between $1.2 trillion and $1.5 trillion.
While hitting the target may vindicate Saudi officials, it could complicate any plans to sell part of Aramco’s shares abroad as originally envisaged by Prince Mohammed in 2016, when he said a dual listing could raise as much as $100 billion. Saudi officials met in recent weeks with international investors to sound them out on a possible listing of Aramco’s shares in Asia, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.
Still, the IPO -- touted as part of a blueprint for life after oil for the kingdom -- is a watershed moment for a business that’s bankrolled Saudi Arabia and its rulers for decades.
The debut was cheered by Saudi and Gulf investors, who see the stock price supported by Aramco’s guaranteed dividends, buying by index-tracking funds and the fact that the region doesn’t have any other listed major oil companies.
Aramco’s “$2 trillion valuation is justified due to secured dividend streams,” Arqaam Capital analysts including Rita Guindy and Jaap Meijer wrote in a report on Wednesday in which they initiated coverage with a buy recommendation and price target of 39.20 riyals.
Arqaam expects a gradual increase of 2% annually in the dividend, potentially being topped up by a special payout of $20 billion in the next three years.
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