Saudi Aramco ‘one of the greatest companies in the world,’ Russia’s wealth fund chief says

CNBC, 04.09.2019

A change of leadership at oil giant Saudi Aramco and its delayed initial public offering (IPO) is not a concern, the head of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund (RDIF) told CNBC Wednesday.

”(Saudi) Aramco is one of the greatest companies in the world and the market is waiting for this IPO to happen. And frankly it’s going to give a very important boost to the Saudi economy that’s transforming itself,” Kirill Dmitriev, the chief executive of RDIF, told CNBC’s Tanvir Gill.

“We believe Aramco is a great investment opportunity, I think it will generate a lot of interest from Asian investors, from investors all over the world. Oil is here to stay for a long time and there are many players who would be interested to invest in the Aramco IPO,” Dmitriev added.

Dmitriev is attending the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok where Russian President Vladimir Putin is hosting the leaders of Japan, India and Malaysia. Dmitriev said earlier Wednesday that Russia plans to expand its cooperation with Saudi Arabia and would make joint investments with Aramco, Reuters reported.

RDIF, Russia’s $10 billion sovereign wealth fund, already has investment partnerships with Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth funds, PIF and SAGIA. Saudi Aramco has made moves to invest in Russia’s energy industry, with the two companies agreeing terms of an investment into Russian oilfield services firm Novomet earlier this year. Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih also reportedly told Putin at an economic forum back in June that Aramco plans to invest in Russia.

Dmitriev’s vote of confidence in Saudi Arabia and Aramco comes after it announced it was replacing the company’s chairman, al-Falih, with the head of its sovereign wealth fund, Yasir Bin Othman Al-Rumayyan.

The move has come amid criticism of the company’s slow progress toward an IPO, first announced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2016.

The sale of roughly 5% of Aramco is expected to value the company at $1 to $2 trillion, making it the largest initial public offering ever. It plans to list first on the Saudi stock exchange before an international listing.

The planned IPO date has been pushed back from an initial plan to launch in 2018 as Saudi Arabia has been waiting for optimum conditions to list amid an uncertain oil price environment. It is now mooted for 2020 or 2021.

Oil prices have risen since a massive decline in mid-2014 due to a glut in supply. Saudi Arabia and Russia, two of the largest global oil producers, have since led a pact to reduce supply in a bid to stabilize oil prices.

Dmitriev called the pact, between OPEC and non-OPEC producer Russia, a “great deal.”

“We have a great deal with Saudi Arabia that has stabilized oil markets, we saw that the oil price is stable in the $60-$70 range and definitely there is growing demand and actually the U.S. inventory has been declining,” he said.

Russia’s Eastern Economic Forum comes as Russia looks to pivot investment to Asia, amid U.S. and European sanctions placed on it for the annexation of Crimea in 2014, and its role in a pro-Russian uprising in east Ukraine.