World's most profitable company issues prospectus

Saudi Aramco executives dismissed concerns about peaking global oil demand as recently as April this year but views are changing ahead of what could be the biggest-ever share sale

The analysis, conducted by IHS Markit and published alongside Saudi Aramco's initial public offering (IPO) prospectus, found offshore projects in Venezuela had the highest break-even price in the world at $63 a barrel, followed by China at $55-60.

Amin H. Nasser, President and CCEO of Saudi Aramco, said: "Saudi Aramco's vision is to be the world's pre-eminent integrated energy and chemicals company". Investors with political or strategic reasons to buy the stock are in, while many global money managers seem ready to pass - at least until Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman decides to rein in his valuation ambitions still further.

The prospectus, which revealed few details, did not say how the government will use the proceeds from the sale.

Despite questions over Aramco's valuation and how much of the company will ultimately be for sale on Saudi Arabia's Tadawul stock exchange, the company's size and profitability has made it undeniably attractive to potential investors.

While Aramco didn't explicitly endorse the forecast, its inclusion in the 658-page document will bring it the attention of investors worldwide.

Saudi Arabia raised its oil output in October to 10.3 million barrels per day but kept its supply to the oil markets below its OPEC output target, a Saudi industry source familiar with the kingdom's oil operations told Reuters.

The prospectus said the government will have a "statutory lockup period" for disposing of any shares after the listing for six months, and a contractual lockup period for 12 months. It's said that nearly 2% of the shares will be available for global investors.

The company flagged risks of climate-related litigation, and also raised concerns about antitrust suits in the United States connected to Saudi Arabia's membership of Opec, which could test Saudi Aramco's ability to rely on a sovereign immunity defence. Saudis flooded banks with phone calls asking how to participate after Aramco announced bank mandates.

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Aramco has been in talks with Gulf and Asian sovereign wealth funds and wealthy Saudi individuals to secure top investors of the IPO, but no cornerstone investor is yet to formally agree to a deal.

Norway's sovereign wealth fund, the world's largest, does not plan to invest in Aramco, a Norwegian official told AFP.

Investors think the hotly anticipated buoyancy will esteem Aramco at $1.5-2 trillion, making the securities exchange posting the greatest ever.

It was initially thought about 5% of Aramco would be sold, but the final figure is now expected to be half that.

Aramco said the timetable was delayed because it began a process to acquire a 70 percent stake in petrochemicals maker Saudi Basic Industries Corp. Goldman Sachs has been selected as the "stabiliser" of the shares in the secondary market.

It would be the world's biggest if it eclipses Chinese retail giant Alibaba's $25 billion listing in 2014.

The valuation would be nearly twice that of Microsoft, now the world's most valuable listed company, and seven times that of Exxon Mobil Corp., the biggest listed oil major by market capitalization.

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