Saudi Arabia has denied widespread reports its much vaunted initial public offering (IPO) of a minority share in national oil firm Aramco has been shelved.
Stories broke last week that the IPO had been scrapped after numerous news agencies quoted senior, un-named figures close to the project.
A Saudi official told Reuters, “The decision to call off the IPO was taken some time ago, but no-one can disclose this, so statements are gradually going that way - first delay then calling off.”
“The message we have been given is that the IPO has been called off for the foreseeable future,” revealed a second source, a senior financial adviser.
Khalid Al Falih, the kingdom’s Minister of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources released a statement denying the claims but the story has continued to escalate.
The likely cancellation would come as a major blow to the economic strategies of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has been a main driver behind the sell-off and who predicted a valuation for the oil giant of around $2tn.
The plan to float 5% of the company was expected to generate $100bn towards the Crown Prince’s plans to diversify the economy but earlier reports suggested international investors had baulked at the scale of the valuation.
Tech giant Apple, as a comparison, recently crossed the $1tn barrier in overall share value.
MBS, as the Crown Prince is known, has experienced a difficult period of time. Despite the publicity around the opening of cinemas in the kingdom and the decision to allow women to drive, seen as his initiatives, clampdowns on protestors have also filled international column inches as has the on-going conflict in Yemen and a diplomatic spat with Canada.
A potential deal for Saudi Aramco to purchase a majority stake in the Saudi Basic Industries Corporation is still an option and could raise around $70bn for the public coffers.