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Saudi Aramco will offer less than 1% of its shares to individual investors. It still might be the biggest IPO ever

Saudi Aramco on Saturday released details of an initial public offering that could shatter records and will give investors the chance to own a piece of the world’s most profitable company.

Saudi Arabia’s state oil company said the offering period will begin on November 17 and close on December 4. It will price its shares on December 5, with trading on the Saudi stock exchange, the Tadawul, expected to start in mid-December, according to its prospectus.

The public offering could be largest in history. Aramco has vast oil reserves and massive daily output. It holds a monopoly in Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest exporter of crude. The company posted a $68 billion profit for the first nine months of this year, down 18% on the same period in 2018. Profit for the whole of 2018 was $111 billion.

The prospectus did not say how much of the company will be floated, but it did specify that up to 0.5% of shares will be sold to individual investors. There is one class of ordinary shares and a share entitles its holder to one vote. Each shareholder has the right to attend and vote at the general assemblies.

The company will not be able to list additional shares for six months after trading begins. All necessary regulatory and corporate approvals required for the offering have been secured for the IPO, it said.

Details of the long-awaited IPO come as low oil prices, the climate crisis and geopolitical risk have raised skepticism among international investors.

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has reportedly sought a valuation for Aramco near $2 trillion. But a model run by Palissy Advisors, an investment advisory firm based in London, puts Aramco’s value at just $1 trillion.

Aramco may need to heavily rely on rich local families, sympathetic sovereign wealth funds or major customers such as China signing up for shares.

There’s also growing expectation that Aramco will need to sweeten its dividend in order to get more global investors in the door. The company has committed to a $75 billion annual dividend through 2024. What investors earn from these payouts could compete with ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell, depending on Aramco’s valuation. But Saudi Arabia may need to put up more to boost interest in its partial privatization.

CNN