The world’s most profitable company is set to list on the stock market for the first time in what is likely to be the largest ever initial public offering (IPO).
Saudi Arabia’s state oil company, Aramco, is thought to be worth between $1.2 trillion (£930bn) and $2 trillion, comfortably more than Apple, which is currently the most valuable public firm in the world.
The sky-high valuation is based on Aramco continuing to churn out billions of barrels of oil for decades to come, which environmental groups have warned will undermine efforts to halt catastrophic climate change.
Aramco produces more oil than any other enterprise - around 11.6 million barrels per day, worth $719m at today’s market price.
That volume of oil has made Aramco responsible for more global emissions than any other company in history by a comfortable margin, according to the Climate Accountability Network.
It also presents the significant risk of so-called stranded assets such as oil fields and refineries which are highly valued today but may quickly become worthless as the world’s energy needs switch away from fossil fuels.
Yasir al-Rumayyan, the chairman of Saudi Aramco, said on Sunday: “Today marks a significant milestone in the history of the company and important progress towards delivering Saudi Vision 2030, the kingdom’s blueprint for sustained economic diversification and growth.”
The sale will be a publicity coup and a financial boost for Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Mohammad bin Salman, who is attempting to present a more modern vision for the conservative kingdom while decreasing its reliance on oil.
Saudi Arabia hopes to raise around $40-$45bn from the sale of a 1 per cent to 2 per cent stake. Much of the cash is likely to flow into the kingdom’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), which has bought stakes in a host of companies including Uber.
Banks and advisors will also collect hundreds of millions of dollars in fees for their role in getting the Aramco share sale over the line.
The shares will debut on Saudia Arabia’s stock market, the Tadawul, dashing hopes on Wall Street and in the City of London, which had been vying to win a share of the lucrative listing.
Plans for a dual listing have been put on hold but may be revived in future.
The importance of Aramco to world oil supplies was underlined in September when drone attacks on its oil plants sent the oil prices soaring.
A temporary shutdown at the Abqaiq and Khurais plants after the attacks temporarily took out more than 5 per cent of global oil production.
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