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Hong Kong is emerging as the frontrunner for Aramco’s international listing, unnamed sources familiar with developments around the IPO of the century told Reuters. New York and London were pegged as favorites earlier, but both NYSE and LSE have stricter disclosure rules than the Hong Kong Exchange, which may well tip the scales in favor of the Chinese bourse.
The news comes as Crown Prince Mohammed prepares to travel to London and New York to discuss the listing. In late January, the Hong Kong Exchange’s chief executive Charles Li told CNBC that Hong Kong would make more sense than London, Tokyo, or New York—the other three exchanges on Aramco’s short list—because it would provide the company with access to Chinese investors.
"A deal in Hong Kong with the possibility of accessing, either now or later, the Chinese investing public works wonders for Saudi Arabia, for China, for Hong Kong and for everybody else," Li said. "So, I don't see any reason why it shouldn't be here, it may not be here right away, it may not be here on the first go, but it will be here."
Prince Mohammed’s trip to London and New York could decide the winner in this race, which is why it will be watched closely. First, the Crown Prince, commonly referred to by media as MBS, will meet with British Prime Minister Theresa May and other senior government officials.
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Theresa May is no stranger to the excitement around Aramco’s listing. She lobbied for London last year during a visit to the Kingdom, together with the boss of the London Stock Exchange. For a while, the LSE appeared to be the frontrunner, but then legislators launched a probe into the Financial Conduct Authority’s suggestion that the LSE changes its premium listing rules to accommodate Aramco in that segment.
New York seems to be the least likely candidate in the short list because of litigation risks after Congress passed a post-9/11 law allowing U.S. citizens to sue Saudi citizens, and concerns over how the OPEC production cut deal could be construed as price fixing, which is illegal in the United States.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.