The Saudi Arabian government said it has converted its crown jewel Saudi Aramco into a joint stock company, one in which shares can be bought and sold.

“This would need to be in place before they can list Aramco, so this signals intent,” Saleem Khokar, head of equities, First Abu Dhabi Bank Investment Management told Gulf News.

According to reports, the paid-up capital or the amount of the issued capital which has been paid for by the shareholders is at 60 billion Saudi riyals ($16 billion), divided into 200 billion shares.

Aramco’s valuation, which is basically current value of paid-up capital plus the value of all intangibles such as goodwill, brand value, could be as much as $2 trillion, according to Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman. This valuation will make Aramco four times than that of Apple, and will make it the most valuable company globally.

“The move shows the seriousness with which the government is taking the potential IPO listing. International and regional investors will be keenly awaiting further details,” Khokar said.

The government intends to sell 5 per cent in Aramco through a primary offering, and the plan is central to the Vision 2030, that plans to diversify the economy away from oil. Saudi Arabia currently derives 90 per cent of the revenues from oil.

According to officials, Saudi Aramco will list on Tadawul in the second half of 2018, and the government is yet to make its mind whether to list Aramco in New York, London, or Hong Kong internationally.