'Unique' Aramco IPO changes the dynamics of Saudi Arabia's economy, stock market CEO says – CNBC

The world’s largest initial public offering (IPO) will radically transform the way in which Saudi Arabia’s economy operates, according to the chief executive of the Saudi Stock Exchange.

So far, Saudi Arabia‘s Tadawul is the only confirmed listing exchange for state-owned energy giant, Saudi Aramco. The kingdom has estimated the much-anticipated listing of the world’s top oil company could be worth up to $2 trillion.

“The Saudi Stock Exchange is as excited as everybody else with the listing of Aramco,” Khalid Abdullah Al Hussan, CEO of the Saudi Stock Exchange, told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble in Riyadh on Wednesday.

“It is almost doubling the size of the Saudi market and that is definitely changing our position as far as size … (And) will change the dynamics of how the Saudi capital market — as well as the economy — operates,” he added.

Saudi Aramco is looking to become the world’s most valuable company when it lists a 5 percent stake in an IPO either later this year or in early 2019.

The “unique” listing is expected to dramatically change the face of the Tadawul exchange, with Saudi Aramco poised to dominate roughly one-third of the index. That could increase the likelihood of Saudi stocks moving in tandem with oil prices — despite the kingdom’s long-term goal to try to diversify its economy away from oil.

While some of the world’s leading stock exchanges and governments have attempted to lobby Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in an effort to be able to list Saudi Aramco alongside the Tadawul, Riyadh’s exchange has been scrambling to try to ready itself for the forthcoming IPO.

In March, the Tadawul’s progress received a timely boost to its preparations as the country’s stock market received approval to join the benchmark FTSE Emerging Markets index. That was widely seen as a positive step, as the approval is expected to push billions of fresh international capital onto Riyadh’s relatively small exchange.

More recently, the kingdom is also waiting to see whether it will be awarded emerging market status in the influential MSCI benchmark equity index. Significantly more money tracks emerging markets which should allow the Tadawul to attract Western funds, in addition to other flagship investors from China, Japan and South Korea.

The Tadawul also announced the launch of its own independent clearing house on Wednesday. The move was thought to mark another step in the country’s “Vision 2030” reform initiative.

The Central Counterparty Clearing House (CCP) is designed to try to further strengthen the Saudi market’s infrastructure and help increase the exchange’s operational efficiency. A clearing house acts as a third party between buyers and sellers on all futures and options contracts in a bid to try to improve the stability of the financial system.

Still, there are many that doubt the Tadawul’s ability to manage the world’s largest-ever IPO.

When asked what investors could expect from the Saudi stock market as it prepares for the listing of Aramco, the Tadawul’s Al Hussan replied: “People expect an accessible market… Fair, secure and well-functioning.”

Saudi Arabia’s stock exchange hosts around 191 companies, with a total value of approximately $500 billion.