Saudi Aramco denies it is planning to shelve $2 trillion listing

The kingdom’s oil company dismisses reports it could drop huge international float in favour of private stake sales.

Saudi Aramco has dismissed reports that it is considering shelving plans for the world’s biggest ever flotation, with the state-owned oil company saying the $2tn (£1.5tn) listing was on track for next year.

Amid concerns about the feasibility of such a huge international listing, the company was favouring a private stake sale to foreign governments, including China, the Financial Times reported on Saturday.

But Aramco dismissed the report as “entirely speculative”.

“All listing venues under review for optimal decision, IPO process is on track for 2018,” the company said on Twitter.

The initial public offering forms the cornerstone of the oil-rich kingdom’s reform programme to wean the economy off its reliance on oil revenues.

Saudi Arabia had laid out plans for Aramco’s dual listing on the Saudi stock market and an international exchange for 2018, with markets in New York and London vying for the offering.

But the company has struggled to select an international venue for its listing with the UK’s market regulator becoming mired in controversy after being accused of watering down the rules in order to clinch the Saudi deal.

The FT’s article was followed by a similar report by the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg.

“A range of options, for the public listing of Saudi Aramco, continues to be held under active review,” an Aramco spokesman questioned on the reports told AFP on Saturday.

“No decision has been made and the IPO process remains on track,” he said.

Until 2014, oil income made up more than 90% of public revenues in Saudi Arabia.

But as it reels from a protracted oil slump, the kingdom is seeking to diversify its economy and privatise some state assets alongside plans to introduce value-added tax.

Oil prices have partly recovered after major producers inside and outside Opec, including Saudi Arabia, agreed last year to cut output by 1.8m barrels per day.