Japan oil refiner: Country's firms will likely spurn Aramco IPO

Head of Japan's largest oil refiner raises doubts over Saudi Aramco's openness ahead of mammoth share sale.

    Saudi Arabia's state oil company is preparing for what could be the world's biggest initial public offering, but there are question marks over the final valuation of the energy giant [File: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters]
    Saudi Arabia's state oil company is preparing for what could be the world's biggest initial public offering, but there are question marks over the final valuation of the energy giant [File: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters]

    Japanese companies are unlikely to invest in Saudi Aramco's blockbuster initial public offering (IPO) because it is difficult to evaluate the value of the world's biggest oil company, the head of Japan's largest refiner said on Friday.

    The unusually frank remarks from the head of a typically conservative Japanese company underscore potential challenges for the IPO, which Aramco has announced is going ahead although the state-owned oil giant has released few details.

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    Sources have told the Reuters news agency that Aramco could offer 1 percent to 2 percent of its shares, raising as much as $20bn to $40bn. A deal over $25bn would top the record-breaking IPO of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba in 2014.

    "It's difficult to think that many Japanese investors will make investments," JXTG Holdings President Tsutomu Sugimori said at an earnings briefing.

    "Japanese companies have stakeholders and they need good reasons to explain to shareholders why they would make such hefty investments and we need to do strict due diligence."

    He was responding to a question on whether Japanese companies would follow Chinese investors after Bloomberg reported that Chinese state-owned firms, including Sinopec Corp, were considering investing up to $10bn in the Aramco share offer.

    "We don't know about Aramco's crude oil reserves and how their contracts with the Saudi royal family work and so on. Aramco will need to disclose this information, but it is not clear how open Aramco will become," Sugimori said.

    Aramco, the world's most profitable company, said on Sunday it was kicking off a domestic IPO, with scant details disclosed and expert valuations varying from about $1.2 trillion to $2.3 trillion.

    JXTG and other Japanese refiners have long-standing relationships with Aramco, having been big buyers of Saudi crude for decades, although Japan's oil imports have fallen as a declining population uses more efficient automobiles.

    Aramco supplied almost 36 percent of Japan's crude imports in September, which totalled 2.8 million barrels per day.

    The Saudi oil company owns a 7.65 percent stake in Idemitsu Co, Japan's second-largest refiner, according to the Japanese company's website.

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency