Saudi Aramco merits a lot of superlatives.
Aramco the world’s largest oil company, pumping 9.54 million barrels of crude oil a day. That’s about one-tenth of the world’s oil demand, and more than the entire U.S. produces. The state-owned company owns the world’s largest offshore and onshore oil fields, and altogether it has total reserves of around 265 billion barrels — enough to supply the world’s current oil demand for eight years.
Not only does the company own a staggering amount of oil, it’s able to pump it out for some of the lowest prices in the world. As such, the company provides nearly all of the Saudi government’s ample wealth.
The history of Aramco is a history of Texas oil men and American exploits in the Middle East. The company was formed out of four U.S. companies, which were merged into one. As a wave of anti-colonialist passions moved through Third World countries, Saudi Arabia took over 25 percent of Aramco in 1973, and then gradually bought the rest up by 1980.
Also unclear is how much the listing could be worth. Aramco could be worth anywhere between $1 trillion to more than $10 trillion, which would make it the most valuable company in the world. But the Saudis could also decide to float a much smaller share of the company. Even so, the listing might still easily surpass history’s biggest IPO so far, Alibaba’s $25 billion debut in 2014.
Where it might list is also somewhat uncertain. While the company intends to list part of its assets in Riyadh, the entire Saudi exchange has a total value of only $400 billion — meaning the stock would sit on the exchange with all the comfort of a gorilla sitting on top of a Beagle. So the company may consider a dual listing in Riyadh and a foreign market — perhaps London or New York.