Saudi Arabia is reportedly restarting plans to list more shares of state oil giant Saudi Aramco, with recent reports saying the kingdom wants to sell as much as $50 billion, or 2.5% of the company.
Executives are said to be weighing the sale of more shares, in what would be its largest sale ever, on the Saudi Tadawul as well as a secondary listing in London or Singapore, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday. Aramco has so far declined to comment on those plans.
In 2019, the company raised $29.4 billion after a historic first listing that saw it float 1.5% of its shares on the domestic market.
Since then, energy markets have seen dramatic turbulence with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent gradual global recovery. With international benchmark Brent crude trading at seven-year highs, some in the industry see now as the optimum time to make such a move.
Sadad Al Husseini, founder of Husseini Energy and the former executive vice president of upstream operations at Saudi Aramco, is one of them.
“This is the right time if they were to do that. The oil markets look good for quite awhile,” Husseini told CNBC’s “Capital Connection” on Monday.
“So if they decided to launch more shares, this would be the perfect time.” He acknowledged that he had not heard anything official from Aramco on the decision.
Strong demand, tight supply
Brent crude was trading at $93.39 per barrel on Monday morning ET, up about 69% year-on-year. Aramco, in its monthly crude oil differentials release, revealed price increases for its March sales across all of its markets. That’s certainly a factor for Aramco when it comes to attracting new capital, Husseini said.
“The markets are doing very well, and they’re doing very well for a fundamental reason,” he said. “There is a strong demand for energy, the global recovery is taking hold, there is a shortage of supply in many areas of the world, so the markets are doing very well just because this is the nature of the global economy.”
Husseini highlighted Asia in particular, noting that “the Far East is recovering very quickly, far more aggressively than Europe or the U.S.”
Industry analysts appear positive about the market too.
“The oil market maintained its perfect start to the year with another solid weekly advance,” Stephen Brennock, an analyst at PVM Oil Associates in London, wrote in a Monday note. “Brent and WTI finally overcame the stubborn $90/bbl hurdle and in doing so took a big step towards the prospect of triple-digit prices.”
Questions remain over institutional investor appetite for Big Oil at a time of energy transition and shifts by major firms and wealth funds to focusing on ESG investing. Climate change has gained a growing focus as activists and world leaders alike warn of its dangers. Could a new Aramco listing be a hard sell?
Not anytime soon, Husseini believes. The shift to renewables is proving costly and unreliable, throwing countries into energy crisis just as global growth picks back up and energy demand is set to skyrocket. Global energy demand is set to increase 47% in the next 30 years, fueled by population and economic growth, particularly in Asia, according to the Energy Information Administration.
“There is a strong interest in a reliable, secure, affordable source of energy across the world — oil is it,” Husseini said. “Yes gas is great too, it’s clean, and alternatives yes they will come along in due course. But right now, with immediate requirement for energy, the best source is oil, and it doesn’t need pipelines, it doesn’t need LNG terminals.”
How long will the oil rally last?
Supply concerns and geopolitical tensions are helping to push crude prices up, and a gas crunch has put Europe up against some of its highest energy prices ever. OPEC is also moving slowly to increase its oil output, with several members failing to meet their production requirements.
“Sources of reliable, extensive volumes of oil are limited,” Husseini said. “So investors who are looking at the long term and thinking about the global economy needing to grow over the next 30 years … That is going to require a lot of energy and it’s got to be reliable energy. Wind and solar are very good, but try solar in England, it doesn’t quite work,” he said. “So I think investors are getting clever, they’re seeing through the realities — everybody’s energy solution put together is the only solution. It’s not one or the other, it’s all of them.”
As for whether the oil rally will last, “I think we’re going to be here for awhile,” the former Aramco executive said. He highlighted Asia’s economic growth, and noted that refineries across the world are still about 2 to 3 million barrels below their capacity and will need more oil in the latter part of this year. “So I think we’re going to see these prices for awhile, I would say four to five years; it’s not an unusual extension to this plateau.”