HSBC predicts 100 Saudi Arabian listings in privatization drive

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Saudi Arabia’s privatization drive is likely to result in around 100 new stock market listings in sectors including mining, healthcare and retail, a top HSBC executive said on Monday.

Georges Elhedery, HSBC’s chief executive for the Middle East and North Africa, did not give a time frame for the listings but said they were part of Saudi plans to diversify its economy beyond oil by 2030.

Close to 180 companies are already listed on the Saudi market and HSBC is advising the stock exchange on its planned listing of its own shares, while industry sources have told Reuters that the bank will play a key advisory role in the upcoming listing of national oil giant Saudi Aramco.

“We are talking, up to possible 100 IPOs (or) 100 entities to be listed on the stock exchange in Saudi Arabia,” Elhedery said at an event marking the 150th anniversary of Thomson Reuters in the region.

Elhedery said the planned listing of a “jewel” like Aramco is a strong example of Saudi Arabia’s commitment to the privatization program.

Aramco is gearing up for a 5 percent share listing next year, aiming to get a valuation of up to $2 trillion in what could be the world’s biggest initial public offering.

Although Aramco has not made a decision yet on the international venue for the IPO, Gulf Capital’s co-founder Karim El Solh said at the same event on Monday that he expected it to be New York “given the size (and) the nature of the industry.”

Global exchanges such as the London Stock Exchange are pitching to win a slice of Aramco’s IPO, which HSBC’s Elhedery said would generate huge demand from strategic investors regardless of where it is listed.

In recent weeks, Chinese oil firms PetroChina, and Sinopec Corp have both shown interest in the Aramco IPO.

Elhedery also said the region’s debt capital market issuance this year was likely to exceed last year’s record of more than $60 billion.

Richad Soundardjee, head of Middle East for Societe Generale, said that the region is “on a good track to beat the 2016 record” of issuance but noted that there has been a lot of “front loading” in the first quarter.

That meant companies taking advantage of good market conditions and coming to market to refinance debt, which is still some time away from maturing.

Soundardjee also said that diversification of sources of funding and currencies will have a positive impact for the region, referring to the emerging of structured finance solutions and export credit agency-backed financing.

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