The logo of Saudi Aramco. Picture: REUTERS / HAMAD MOHAMMED
The logo of Saudi Aramco. Picture: REUTERS / HAMAD MOHAMMED

Dubai — Dozens of bankers from Citigroup to JPMorgan Chase descended on the heart of Dubai’s financial district on Thursday to start work on the mammoth initial public offering (IPO) of Saudi Aramco.

Executives from Morgan Stanley and local investment bank Samba Financial Group also turned up for the kickoff meeting at the opulent Ritz Carlton hotel, just one day after news of their appointment came out. Every now and then, some would exit the closely guarded meeting room — marked by an electronic sign bearing Moelis & Co’s name — passing guests on their way to the pool overlooking the office towers of Dubai International Financial Centre.

Representatives from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund and finance ministry could also be spotted at the five-star property, which is fronted by a limestone facade and rows of palm trees. Around 5.30pm, several of the dark-suited dealmakers began trickling out to relax in the art-deco environs of Cafe Belge, known for its pots of mussels and a selection of Trappist beers costing up to 100 dirhams ($27) a pop.

Aramco, officially known as Saudi Arabian Oil Company, is speeding up the preparations as it aims to sell shares on the Saudi stock exchange later in 2019, people familiar with the matter have said. The energy giant is considering holding analyst presentations the week of September 22 and may list as soon as November, the people said.

The bankers converging on the Ritz have plenty to discuss. Among the questions up in the air are how large a stake Aramco will sell, as well as whether it can achieve the $2-trillion valuation that’s been touted by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. They will also need to figure out ways to secure enough demand for the huge stock offering, especially because Aramco is considering a deal structure that bars direct selling in the US

Aramco picked Bank of America, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley for top underwriting roles on the deal along with some Middle Eastern banks, Bloomberg News reported earlier this week. Lazard and Moelis are also advising Aramco, people with knowledge of the matter have said.

CEO Amin Nasser said this week that Aramco is going to sell shares “very soon.” The primary exchange for the listing will be the local bourse, Nasser told reporters at an industry conference in Abu Dhabi.

With Abbas Al Lawati and Matthew Martin.