Saudi Aramco starts trading, gaining 10 per cent and reaching $1.88 trillion

Saudi Arabia’s oil company Aramco began trading for the first time on Wednesday, gaining 10% in its first moments on the market in a dramatic debut that pushed it’s value to $1.88 trillion, higher than any other listed company in the world. The state-owned oil giant started trading on the Saudi Tadawul stock exchange after a mammoth USD 25.6 billion initial public offering that set the record as the biggest ever in history. Trading for Aramco shares began at 10:30 am in Riyadh.

The company had announced a sale of 1.5 per cent of its shares at 32 Saudi riyals a share, or what is $8.53. At a pre-trading auction earlier in the morning, bids for Aramco’s shares reached the 10 per cent limit on stock price fluctuation allowed by the Tadawul stock exchange. That pushed the price of Aramco shares to 35.2 riyals, or USD 9.39 a share.

This makes Aramco more valuable than Microsoft or Apple, two of the top listed companies in the world. It’s also worth more than the top five oil companies — Exxon Mobil, Total, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron and BP — combined. Aramco is selling 0.5 per cent of its shares to individual retail investors — most of whom are Saudi nationals — and 1 per cent to institutional investors, most of which are Saudi or Gulf-based funds.

Only Saudi citizens, residents of Saudi Arabia or nationals of Gulf Arab states were permitted to buy Aramco shares as individual investors. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman plans to use the money raised from the sale of a sliver of the kingdom’s crown jewel to diversify the country’s economy and fund major national projects that create jobs for the millions of young Saudis entering the workforce.

What the 34-year-old crown prince had initially sought was a USD 2 trillion valuation for Aramco and the sale of up to 5 per cent of the company – on an international stock exchange as well as the Saudi market – that could raise USD 100 billion.

Instead, potential buyers outside Saudi Arabia thought his $2 trillion valuation was too high. With gains made on the local Tadawul and strong local support, the company could reach the $2 trillion mark in trading on the local exchange. The strong demand for Aramco’s stock, however, has so far been mostly supported by Saudi and some Gulf-based funds, rather than international investors.

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