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Saudi Arabia transfers 4% of Aramco shares to sovereign fund

By AFP - Feb 13,2022 - Last updated at Feb 13,2022

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RIYADH — Saudi Arabia has moved four per cent of Aramco shares worth 80 billion dollars in the world's biggest oil exporter to the kingdom's sovereign wealth fund, authorities said on Sunday.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, announced the move as part of efforts to recalibrate the oil-dominated economy.

The transfer is also the latest sign that Saudi Arabia wants to open up Aramco, the "crown jewel" of the Saudi economy.

The "transfer of four per cent of Aramco shares to the Public Investment Fund [PIF]... is part of the kingdom's long-term strategy to support the restructuring of its economy", the crown prince was quoted as saying by the state SPA news agency.

Crown Prince Mohammed said he wants the investment fund to have one trillion dollars in assets by the end of 2025. The fund is the centrepiece of official moves to end economic reliance on oil.

"The shares will bolster the fund's strong financial position and high credit ratings in the medium term, as the PIF relies on the value of its assets and the returns on its assets under management for its funding strategy," he said.

The crown prince stressed that the Saudi state would remain the dominant Aramco shareholder with a 94 per cent stake. Crown Prince Mohammed heads the PIF sovereign fund.

 

'Financial reform process' 

 

Prince Mohammed said in April last year that Aramco was in talks to sell a 1 per cent stake to a foreign energy giant.

"There is a discussion on the acquisition of 1 per cent [of Aramco] by one of the world's leading energy companies, and this will be a very important deal to boost Aramco's sales in that country," the crown prince said at the time.

Aramco previously sold 1.7 per cent of its shares on the Saudi bourse in December 2019, generating $29.4 billion in the world's biggest initial public offering.

It raised six billion dollars in Islamic bonds in June last year, so that it could pay dividends to the new shareholders.

But Aramco announced $30.4 billion in profit for the third quarter of 2021, a massive rise from $18.8 billion for the same quarter the previous year, as oil prices took off again.

In December, Aramco said it had signed a $15.5 billion lease agreement for its gas pipeline network with a consortium led by BlackRock Real Estate of the United States and Hassana Investment Company, a Saudi-state-backed investment management firm.

Aramco and its assets were once kept under a vice-like government control, long off-limits to outside investment.

But with the rise of Crown Prince Mohammed, who has been pushing his "Vision 2030" reform programme, the kingdom has shown readiness to cede some control.

"The kingdom is continuing its initiatives to pursue the economic and financial reform process that it has undertaken and is putting in place economic transformation plans," the crown prince was quoted as saying on Sunday.

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