Aramco
Saudi Aramco Image Credit: Gulf News archive

Abu Dhabi: Saudi energy giant Aramco is ready for a two-stage IPO but the timing is up to the government, its chief executive said on Tuesday, flagging a possible foreign listing as part of the offering.

Aramco is "ready" for the giant initial public offering (IPO) but the timing is a "government decision", Amin Nasser told reporters on the sidelines of the World Energy Congress.

"One of the primary listings is going to be local but we are also ready for listing outside."

Nasser's remark came after the Wall Street Journal reported last week that Aramco was considering a domestic debut and a subsequent international listing - possibly in Tokyo.

Aramco has said it plans to float around 5 per cent of the state-owned company in 2020 or 2021 in what could potentially be the world's biggest stock sale.

The planned IPO forms the cornerstone of a reform programme envisaged by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to wean the Saudi economy off its reliance on oil.

It aims to raise up to $100 billion based on a $2 trillion valuation of the company, but investors have long debated whether Aramco is really worth that much.

The prospect of falling short of the $2 trillion valuation desired by Saudi rulers is widely considered the reason the IPO - previously scheduled for 2018 - has been delayed.

Earlier this month, Aramco said its first half net income for 2019 slipped nearly 12 percent to $46.9 billion on lower crude prices.

It was the first time the company has published half-year financial results and comes after Aramco opened its secretive accounts for the first time in April, revealing itself to be the world's most profitable company.