Dubai/London — The excitement was palpable as bankers, one group at a time, stepped on to buses that shuttled them from Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton hotel to a meeting with Saudi officials.

Saudi Arabia, the most conservative of nations, had promised to do what no other Gulf state had dared: open the books of its state oil company Saudi Aramco, let the world peer inside and ultimately take a stake in the kingdom’s crown jewel.

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