Saudi Aramco, founded in 1933 as California-Arabian Standard Oil Company, started its first oil drilling on Saudi soil in 1938, in order to quench European and North American demand for oil during the second World War. Later, the company was re-named Arabian-American Oil Company in 1944 and extended its oil exploration ventures onto the wider Arabian Peninsula. After a dispute with the then Saudi King Abdulaziz, the company started to share half of its profits with the Saudi Arabian States. As a result of the Yom Kippur war of 1973, Arab oil producing states imposed an oil embargo towards countries supporting Israel during the conflict. In the aftermath, the Saudi Arabian government gradually started to nationalize Saudi Aramco and as of 1981 it became 100 percent state-owned. Saudi Arabia is today a rentier state, as 23 percent of its GDP is generated from oil rent. Saudi Arabia has established itself as the de facto leader of OPEC.
As of recently, Saudi Aramco employs 65 thousand people. It is considered the most profitable company worldwide, ahead of companies such as Apple and Alphabet (Google). Saudi Aramco’s leadership in the oil industry is also reflected when comparing it with other major oil and gas companies. Saudi Aramco is the global leader in daily crude oil production, followed by Exxon mobile and BP, who produce less than a third of its crude oil. The production fields in Saudi Arabia are able to extract a barrel of crude oil for 10 U.S. dollars per barrel. This led to 213 billion U.S. dollars in profits last year, dwarfing the profits of other major oil companies. Saudi Arabia also produces fewer emissions than all other countries during its production of oil.
Even before its initial public offering, Saudi Aramco’s cash flow was evaluated at 85.5 billion U.S. dollars. The company’s total value is estimated between 1.5 and 1.7 trillion U.S. dollars. The IPO for Saudi Aramco is planned in two stages. During the first stage, which is planned for late 2019, about 2-3 percent of the company will be sold in Tadawul shares at the Saudi Stock Exchange. Estimates suggest this will raise up to 30 billion U.S. dollars, thus, will make it the largest IPO since Alibaba’s in 2014, in which 25 billion U.S. dollars were raised. In the second stage, Saudi Aramco’s shares will be listed at a foreign exchange, although, this decision has not been made final yet.
This bold move in transforming Saudi Aramco, from a state-owned cooperation into a partly public company, is all a part of Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, and de facto leader of the country, Muhammad bin Salman’s idea to modernize the Kingdom. According to the Agenda 2030, the Saudi Arabian government is planning to diversify its economy and to end its dependency from the oil revenue. Saudi Aramco’s IPO is a crucial step in the reformation of the Saudi economy and society.
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