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Sat 9 Sep 2017 02:03 PM

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Saudi Aramco IPO on track, says ministry

Kingdom's authorities are redrafting 'National Transformation Program' to avoid overlapping other reform programmes

Saudi Aramco IPO on track, says ministry
A flame from a Saudi Aramco oil installion known as 'Pump 3' is seen in the desert near the oil-rich area of Khouris, 160 kms east of the Saudi capital Riyadh. (MARWAN NAAMANI/AFP/Getty Images)

Plans to sell a stake in Saudi Arabian Oil Co are “well underway,” the government said on Saturday, as the kingdom redrafts one of its key economic blueprints to eliminate overlap with other reform programmes.

The government’s privatisation programme “continues to gain traction,” the Ministry of Culture and Information said in a statement.

Officials have said the kingdom plans to sell as much as 5 percent of Aramco next year in what could be the world’s biggest initial public offering.

"The IPO process is well underway and Saudi Aramco remains focused on ensuring that all IPO-related requirements are completed on time and to the very highest standards," it said.

The statement comes after an official document seen by Bloomberg News showed that authorities are redrafting the National Transformation Program, a plan to overhaul the kingdom’s government and economy as it grapples with low oil prices.

The revamp won’t change key fiscal or energy-related targets, according to the document, but it’s needed to match it with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s broader Saudi Vision 2030, which includes a separate programme for the Aramco IPO.

The NTP’s revision “represents learning and progress, and provides a stronger foundation for the necessary reforms and progress for the country,” the ministry said. It said more than half the objectives under the previous version have been assigned to different entities or programs.

The original NTP was designed to overhaul the Saudi bureaucracy, and set targets for each ministry to achieve by 2020. The plan, however, was overshadowed by the prince’s Vision 2030, a broader blueprint for life after oil that calls for selling shares in Saudi Aramco and creating the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund.

Consultants and civil servants began redrafting the NTP in July, calling the effort "NTP 2.0." The document outlines a 16-week schedule to develop the program. A final report is due to be delivered to the government by the end of October.

“It is important to adjust and adapt to unexpected situations, and to use new circumstances in ways that reinforce and strengthen underlying strategic objectives,” the ministry said in its statement. “Such flexibility should not undermine the stability and predictability needed to allow private sector to plan its new investments and expansions.”

The statement cited several "early successes" for the kingdom’s program, such as "a faster than anticipated reduction in the budget deficit, energy price reform" and the introduction of an excise tax on soda and tobacco products.

The government has also allocated 200 billion riyals "of support to strategic private sector organizations," including 15 billion riyals ($4 billion) to fund industrial projects and 75 billion riyals for a proposed Saudi-China fund, which will focus on infrastructure and logistics projects, the ministry said in the statement.