Apple Toppled as World's Most Valuable Firm by Saudi Aramco Flotation

Apple Toppled as World's Most Valuable Firm by Saudi Aramco Flotation

The share price set for state-owned oil giant Saudi Aramco has made its flotation the biggest in history and sees Apple toppled as the world's most valuable listed firm.

However, it still falls well short of the staggering $2trn (£1.5trn) price tag for the firm the Gulf state's Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, had originally wanted.

Aramco priced its initial public offering (IPO) at $8.53 (£6.48) a share, the top of its range, it confirmed on Thursday.

This means it will raise $25.6bn (£19.5bn), beating Alibaba's record $25bn (£19.5bn) listing in 2014.

It gives the company a market valuation of $1.7trn (£1.3trn), far outstripping that of the US tech giant Apple, at almost $1.2trn (£0.8trn).

However the listing, expected on the Riyadh stock exchange next week, is well below the mammoth market debut that had once been aimed for.

Saudi Arabia relied on domestic and regional investors to sell a 1.5% stake after lacklustre interest from overseas investors, despite the reduced valuation.

It is also reported that Aramco may also exercise an option, allowing it to increase the size of the deal to a maximum of $29.4bn (£22.3bn).

The sale comes as the Saudi government moves to diversify from its reliance on oil to seek revenues from other channels, including tourism.

Monica Malik, chief economist at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, said: "The amount raised by the IPO itself is relatively contained given the size of the economy and medium-term funding requirement of the transformation plan.

"Nevertheless, combined with other areas of funding, we believe that there is meaningful capital in place to progress with the investment plans aimed at diversifying the economy."

The Aramco valuation reflected a number of significant concerns among investors, according to analysts.

Among them is the Saudi state's control of the company and the fact the listing is not taking place, initially at least, on a leading foreign stock exchange.

Others include worries over climate change and security, highlighted by drone and missile attacks on two Aramco processing sites in September, which were claimed by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in neighbouring Yemen.

Saudi Arabia also faced global condemnation after the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey.

The lack of interest by international institutions led Aramco to scrap roadshows in New York and London and focus instead on marketing a stake to Saudi investors and wealthy Gulf Arab allies.

The government had promoted the investment as a patriotic duty, with Saudi banks offering people cheap credit to bid for shares.

Source: Sky News