The board of Saudi Aramco has determined that listing the state energy giant in New York would carry too many legal risks to make it a realistic option, five sources said, although they said a final decision lay with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, Reuters reported.
New York was the exchange favored by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman before plans for the initial public offering were put on hold last year, the sources said, even after Aramco’s lawyers and some government advisers had raised legal concerns.
New York offers the largest investor base in the world, vital for an IPO that aims to attract as much as $100 billion, a sum that could prove tough for other exchanges to raise. President Donald Trump urged the Kingdom to list in New York.
One source familiar with the IPO plan told Reuters the board, made up of cabinet ministers and Aramco executives, had concluded at an August meeting that a U.S. listing would not be considered “unless Aramco is offered sovereign immunity that protects it from any legal action.”
“This is, of course, hard if not impossible to achieve,” the source added.
Like other sources who spoke to Reuters, he asked not to be named because of sensitivities surrounding the fate of the IPO which the crown prince hopes will value the company at $2 trillion. Some insiders and bankers say that figure is too high.
The move to rule out New York and scale back on the valuation suggests technocrats in Aramco and the government are pushing for a more realistic IPO plan, the sources said.
Alongside New York, exchanges in London, Hong Kong and Tokyo have been keen to woo Saudi officials to secure a deal to trade shares in Aramco, which is expected to have a primary listing in Riyadh.
But Saudi officials say the New York disclosure process and complex regulations might legally interfere with the sovereignty of the Saudi government, which would remain the major Aramco shareholder, probably retaining a 95% stake.
“Listing in New York is no longer an option,” one industry source familiar with the IPO process said.
Riyadh and London were now the main options, with the domestic listing first to be followed by an international offering at a later stage, four of the sources said.
“The likelihood of a local listing is increasing, with 1-2% of Aramco being listed locally,” another source familiar with the IPO process said, adding that “the other possibility is listing in London.”