Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has replaced Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih with his son Abdulaziz, a long-term member of the Saudi delegation to OPEC.
CNN quoted a source from OPEC recently as saying Al-Falih had "never been enthusiastic about an IPO for Aramco," which could be part of the reason why he was removed from the top oil job in the Kingdom.
Recently, Riyadh has increased its Aramco IPO-related activity. Last week, it emerged that the King would split the Energy, Industry and Mining Ministry into two, with one dedicated singularly to energy. Initially, Al-Falih kept his job as head of that ministry but lost his position as chairman of the board of Aramco.
The reshuffle followed quotes from senior officials that the Aramco IPO remains on track for the early 2020s. The company last month posted its first-ever financial report, which showed a decline in profits for the first half on the back of lower oil prices. Still, even with the decline, Aramco remained the company with the fattest profit globally.
Yet this might not be enough to lure investors into the listing that has been hailed as the deal of the century, expected to generate US$100 billion on a total valuation of US$2 trillion—a valuation that has been questioned by external auditors. While a recent bond—another first for Aramco—ended up substantially oversubscribed, shadows hang over the IPO, which would explain the burst of activity recently. Related: US Producers Continue To Pump At Record Rates As Rig Count Drops
Prince Abdulaziz is hailed by supporters as a knowledgeable man about oil markets. "I think it is a positive notion to the market that a person like Prince Abdulaziz is taking [the oil ministry] with all of that history of OPEC that he has," said his UAE counterpart, Suhail al-Mazrouei, as quoted by CNN.
Yet it bears noting that this is the second energy minister replacement over the last six years, and any change in such a top position would create doubts about the consistency of policies that will have a direct bearing on Aramco’s financial performance in the future.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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