Saudi Aramco’s board will meet in China in May for the first time in seven years, industry sources said, as the state-owned energy firm seeks to lure Chinese and Asian investors to its giant share offering. The board of directors would gather in Shanghai on May 10 to discuss the firm’s business plans, investments and preparations to sell up to 5 percent of Aramco in 2018, the sources said.
An annual report of the company’s activities for the previous year is usually issued after the board meeting. The board, which gathers twice a year, often meets abroad but only once before had a meeting in China, in 2010.
Aramco has appointed international banks with access to Chinese investors to advise on the initial public offering (IPO). The issue of Aramco’s IPO and a potential role for Chinese investors was discussed last month during the visit by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman to Beijing, sources said.
The IPO could generate up to $100 billion and give Aramco an overall valuation of $2 trillion, the biggest ever. “Chinese participation in Aramco’s IPO would be very logical and strategic,” said Sadad al-Husseini an energy analyst and former Aramco executive.
Saudi officials have said Chinese companies were interested in investing in the Aramco IPO as Beijing seeks to secure crude supplies from the world’s biggest oil exporter. “There is a serious push from Aramco for Chinese investors to become cornerstone investors in the IPO,” an industry source said.
A second source said talks were at an early stage and any Chinese investment in Aramco would likely be in coordination with the Beijing government. Aramco is likely to be listed on the Saudi stock exchange in Riyadh and on one or more international markets. The kingdom is considering exchanges in New York, London, Toronto and Asia.
Industrial and Commercial Bank of China International Holdings, a unit of Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, and China International Capital Corporation (CICC) are among Chinese banks pitching for a role in the IPO, sources familiar with the matter have told Reuters.
Chinese participation in the IPO could strengthen Riyadh’s hand in other Chinese investment decisions, the sources said. Aramco has been in talks for years to invest in refineries in China so it can sell more of its crude to China. Those plans have yet to progress.
The board, which often tours Aramco's investments where they meet, also comes before the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries gathers in Vienna on May 25 to decide on output policy. An OPEC-led pact to cut supplies ends in June.
The nine-member board includes Saudi Energy Minister and Aramco Chairman Khalid al-Falih, Minister of State Ibrahim al-Assaf, Aramco CEO Amin Nasser, Public Investment Fund Managing Director Yasir al-Rumayyan and royal court adviser Majid al-Moneef. It also includes former Royal Dutch Shell Chairman Mark Moody-Stuart and former Schlumberger head Andrew Gould.