Is the Saudi Aramco IPO Hotting Up with Selection of Moelis?

Print Email

Boutique investment bank Moelis & Co. (NYSE: MC) has been selected by the Saudi Arabian Oil Company, aka Saudi Aramco, as the internal independent advisor on what is expected to be an initial public offering (IPO) of about 5% of a company that could be valued at around $2 trillion.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) was revealed last year as another advisor to Saudi Aramco ahead of the IPO. Major investment banks like Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS), HSBC Holdings plc (NYSE: HSBC), and Citigroup Inc. (NYSE: C), among others, were also asked last month to make a pitch for the advisory role according to a report at Reuters.

Nor is there any lack of banks wanting to get in on underwriting Saudi Aramco’s IPO.

Which bank makes a lot of money from the Saudi Aramco IPO is interesting, but not nearly as interesting as the fact of the IPO itself and the amount of disclosure that the company will have to do in order to attract investors.

Saudi Arabia currently controls the country’s crude oil reserves, officially listed at 261 billion barrels, and as of last June, the country’s oil minister said that the state would not relinquish control over either output targets or production capacity. That means that the publicly traded company could effectively be a contractor for the Saudi government, and likely be compensated in the same way as any other contractor. That’s just our guess, but until we hear differently, it’s not a bad one.

Getting Saudi Aramco’s books in shape for an IPO is focussed on being able to report 2017 financial results in compliance with international standards. The company also plans to show potential investors accounts for 2015 and 2016 according to the same standard, most likely the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS).

Just finding out if, in fact, Saudi Arabia still has 261 billion barrels of proved reserves is a big deal. The company has never held an outside audit of its reserves and there are plenty of people who wonder how the Saudis pump around 10 million barrels a day for decades and yet their proved reserves never change. Seems like a reasonable question to us.