Saudi Aramco IPO likely to be delayed until 2019

Caricature of Mohammad Bin Salman and Netanyahu- Cartoon

Saudi Arabia is understood to be close to entering a recession after the country spent a third of its reserves in the last three years following a drop in oil prices. Petrol giant Saudi Aramco's initial public offering, potentially the largest stock sale ever, had been originally scheduled for the second half of this year.

Saudi Arabia is increasingly looking to just float oil giant Saudi Aramco locally as plans for an initial public offering (IPO) on an global exchange such as London or NY hang in the balance, sources close to the process said.

The IPO, potentially the largest stock sale ever, had been scheduled for the second half of this year, amid efforts to select an global venue for its listing. Saudi officials are reported to have told their British counterparts last week that a delay to 2019 was likely.

The company's potential market debut, a centerpiece of an ambitious economic overhaul of Saudi Arabia by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has drawn the interest of investors around the world - and political leaders hoping to win the listing.

President Donald Trump plans to meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Washington on March 20, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday.

Aramco neither confirmed nor denied the FT report.

"The only thing we know today is that Tadawul will be the key listing location as our national exchange", Falih told CNN.

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"Appropriate decisions will be made in due course".

If Saudi Arabia opted to list shares of the company overseas, officials that spoke with FT said they expected a domestic and foreign listing to occur at roughly the same time, potentially in the first half of next year, the paper said.

Based on the assumption that another $100 billion would be added through an Aramco initial public offering, the kingdom's weighting would rise to about 4%, which would be bigger than Russia's weighting of 3.4%, for example.

Jason Tuvey, Middle East economist at Capital Economics, discusses what could cause a potential Saudi Aramco IPO delay and what Mohammad bin Salman accomplished on his United Kingdom visit.

The IPO forms the cornerstone of the petro-state's reform programme to wean the economy off its reliance on oil revenues.

Saudi officials said the crackdown, which came through royal decree, was in response to "exploitation by some of the weak souls who have put their own interests above the public interest, in order to illicitly accrue money".