TMX looks to bring part of Saudi Aramco listing to Canada

Saudi Arabia expects to value the state-owned oil producer at a minimum of $2 trillion

Toronto Stock Exchange owner TMX Group Ltd said on Wednesday it was pitching the energy-rich bourse to "Saudi officials of significant influence" to bring at least part of the kingdom's massive Saudi Aramco public listing to Canada.

Saudi Arabia expects to value the state-owned oil producer at a minimum of $2 trillion, in what could be the world's biggest initial public offering (IPO), the centrepiece of a plan to transform the Saudi economy by attracting foreign investment and diversifying away from oil.

Riyadh will be the main listing venue, with at least one other primary listing either in London or New York, a source familiar with the TMX talks told Reuters, adding that the Canadian exchange is competing for a secondary listing.

Canada's rich mineral resources industry and investor base of big pension funds make it a natural listing venue for oil companies, yet the country has failed to attract many large foreign listings. The biggest traded company on the exchange is Royal Bank of Canada with a market value of $108 billion, while energy companies account for almost 20 percent of the benchmark Toronto index's weight.

"We're an energy-laden exchange, we have a whole knowledge base that understands energy and people that look to this market to trade energy," said Brian Pow, a research and equity analyst at Acumen Capital Partners in Calgary.

Other exchanges vying for a secondary listing include global players such as Frankfurt and Hong Kong, the source added. Singapore Exchange has also held talks with Saudi Aramco on a secondary listing, Reuters reported this week..

Aramco has chosen New York-based boutique investment bank Moelis & Co as an adviser on its IPO plans, separate sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

TMX said its representatives travelled to Saudi Arabia in October and again last month for meetings with Saudi officials. A consortium of representatives from across Canada's capital markets has sought to establish relationships with key business and government leaders in Saudi Arabia.

"As part of this unique, collaborative initiative, we are dedicating a portion of our effort toward attracting the Saudi Aramco IPO," TMX's head of global equity capital markets, Nick Thadaney, said in an emailed statement to Reuters.

Winning even a small share of the Aramco IPO would boost the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX).

The combined market capitalisation of the companies listed on the TSX’s 300 Composite index is about $1.73 trillion, according to Thomson Reuters data, while the entire exchange had a market capitalisation of C$2.8 trillion at the end of January, the TMX said.

The largest ever international IPO on the TSX raised C$813.1 million for Swedish mining company Boliden AB in 1997. Boliden has since delisted due to low trading volume. Canada's biggest pension funds, such as the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan and the Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec, could be among potential investors in the IPO. However, they would only participate if convinced of the long-term investment case, pension experts say.

All the pension funds declined to comment.

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