Abu Dhabi said to be mulling $1.5bn stake in Saudi Aramco IPO

The emirate is seeking to make the investment through one or more state-linked entities, according to sources

Abu Dhabi is planning to put as much as $1.5bn into Saudi Aramco’s initial public offering, as the oil giant taps friendly neighbours to prop up a deal that’s so far failed to draw foreign investors, people with knowledge of the matter said.

The emirate is seeking to make the investment through one or more state-linked entities, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is private. Aramco representatives are meeting officials of some top Abu Dhabi funds and companies this week to discuss the potential commitments, the people said.

Bringing in a major investor from outside the kingdom would be a relief for Saudi Arabia after plans to market the IPO globally were abandoned. Aramco had high hopes of drawing in sovereign investors, including a big commitment from China, but has yet announce any firm commitments.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who’s made the record share sale a centerpiece of his plan to modernize the Saudi economy, will make an official visit to Abu Dhabi on Wednesday, according to Saudi TV station Al-Arabiya.

Local investors

The Abu Dhabi government hasn’t made a final decision on which state entities will participate in the deal, and the precise size of the investment could change, the people said. Aramco declined to comment. The Abu Dhabi government’s media office didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

If Abu Dhabi puts in an order of that size it would mean that the institutional offering is almost certainly fully covered. Institutional subscriptions totaled SAR58.4bn ($15.6bn), lead manager for the offering Samba Capital said in a statement on Nov 21, representing about 90 per cent of the institutional tranche.

The Saudi government plans to raise more than $25bn, selling a 1.5 per cent stake in the company at a valuation of between $1.6 trillion and $1.7 trillion. Of that, 1 per cent is earmarked for institutional investors and the rest for Saudi retail buyers.

After international money managers balked at the valuation Crown Prince Mohammed wanted for the company, Aramco decided to lean heavily on local investors, large and small, to get the job done. They have secured commitment from some of the kingdom’s wealthiest families, many of whom had members imprisoned in Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton hotel in 2017 during a so-called corruption crackdown.

The banking system is also being used to boost demand. The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority will allow smaller retail investors to borrow twice their cash investment, double the normal leverage limits the regulator allows for IPOs, according to people familiar with matter.