business

Plans for World's Biggest IPO Attract Attention of U.K. Cabinet

  • Saudi Arabian prince to visit before oil giant Aramco’s sale
  • May’s ministers discussed Aramco listing, spokesman says

Prime Minister Theresa May’s cabinet talked about Saudi Arabian oil giant Aramco’s pending initial public offering, which could be the largest in history, as part of preparations for a trip to London by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

“The visit will usher in a new era of bilateral relations” focused on delivering “wide-ranging benefits,” said James Slack, a spokesman for May. The potential listing for Saudi Arabian Oil Co., the world’s biggest oil exporter, was among the topics that were discussed, he said, without giving further details. Starting March 7, the prince is scheduled to make his first trip to the U.K. since becoming heir to the monarchy.

London and New York are among cities vying to host Aramco when it sells shares in Riyadh and potentially a second, yet-to-be-determined location. Saudi Arabia has signaled that it plans to sell about 5 percent of the company to raise a record $100 billion as early as this year in the IPO, a brainchild of the crown prince. The 32-year-old leader’s economic transformation plan will offer new opportunities for investments by British businesses in infrastructure, education, entertainment and health-care, the U.K. government said on Tuesday.

“Saudi Arabia is changing,” May said in the statement. “These are all sectors where the U.K. leads the world and where there are new opportunities to work together.”

Dwarf Alibaba

The crown prince’s reform packages in his country since being appointed in June have included lifting a ban on women driving and allowing movie theaters to operate. The Aramco stock sale would likely dwarf the $25 billion raised by Chinese Internet retailer Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. in 2014.

Saudi Arabia is a powerhouse in the Middle East, and the two countries have a bilateral trade relationship worth almost 9 billion pounds ($12.5 billion).

The visit also “provides an opportunity to enhance cooperation in international challenges such as terrorism and extremism” and discuss the situations in Yemen, Syria and Iraq, Slack said.

The crown prince is also expected to visit the U.S. in March.

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