Saudi Aramco Share Price Set to Face Renewed Test as Oil Slumps

Saudi Aramco’sstock risks dropping below the initial public offering price on Sunday when trading resumes in Riyadh after OPEC+ talks ended in failure and oil prices collapsed.

Shares in the world’s biggest oil producer have largely defied gravity since they were listed in December, not falling below the initial public offering price of 32 riyals ($8.53) even as the coronavirus led to a 30% slump in crude prices since the start of the year. Aramco’s stock has only slipped about 6% in 2020 to close at 33 riyals on Thursday, the last trading day of the week.

With oil falling the most inmore than a decade on Friday, Aramco is set to face further selling pressure when trading resumes that could push it below the IPO price. That would be a major blow to the kingdom’s citizens, who were encouraged to invest in the company after global investors largely took the view it was overvalued and so stayed away. It could also hamper plans for further stake sales in the company.

Oil’s fall also illustrates how closely intertwined Aramco’s profitability is with politics in Riyadh. Prices slumped after Russia refused to bend to the will of Saudi Arabia, whose high-stakes gamble pushed the oil producer group to a breaking point. Riyadh wanted to slash production to offset the hit to demand from the coronavirus. Russia, which hastaken steps to shore up its economy, wanted to use lower prices to help wipe out competition from U.S. shale.

Aramco’s profit is already forecast to drop 16% to 348 million riyals for 2019, based on analysts’estimates, because of production cuts ordered by the kingdom’s Energy Ministry to try and support oil prices. The company had alsodelayed the release of its monthly crude-pricing announcement until after the OPEC+ decision to see if the alliance backed production cuts that lifted prices, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg.

If Aramco’s price drops further, it could deter the government from selling more shares in the company to help fund its sovereign wealth fund. Saudi Arabia has a program of further stake sales planned, either in Saudi Arabia or on an international exchange, Aramco chairman and governor of the Public Investment Fund Yasir Al Rumayyan said in aninterview last week.

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