Counting the Cost

Oil economics: Behind the Saudi Aramco IPO

Will auctioning off a slice of state-owned oil giant Aramco give Saudi Arabia more time to weather the oil price storm?

Amid low oil prices and burgeoning budget deficits, Saudi Arabia announced that it was considering listing the state-owned oil giant Aramco on the Saudi stock exchange.

Aramco is the world’s largest company in the oil business and the backbone of the Saudi economy.

But the oil business is not creating enough cash these days. Even with the low oil price, the numbers associated with Aramco highlight why this could be such a significant initial public offer.

Saudi Aramco has crude reserves of about 260bn barrels of oil, which is more than 15 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves. If it went public, it could become the first listed company valued at $1 trillion or more, analysts estimate.

Saudi Arabia’s $98bn budget deficit is seen by many analysts as the main reason for the listing, but Saudi officials insist that it is part of an attempt to diversify the economy beyond oil and have the private sector play a bigger role.

So, will auctioning off a slice of Aramco give Saudi Arabia more time to weather the oil price storm? And how can the Saudi economy deal with the low oil price?

We speak to Fahad Alturki, the chief economist of Jadwa Investment, about oil, Aramco and a trillion-dollar IPO we thought would never happen.

Also on this episode of Counting the Cost: We take a look at South Africa’s weakening rand and why the jittery currency is posing huge questions about the government’s economic direction and putting financial pressure on most South Africans.

We also look at Wanda, a group that has just bought a major stake in the Hollywood studio behind Batman and Godzilla. It is owned by China’s richest person, Wang Jianlin, and is fast becoming a media powerhouse. So what will be China’s role in the global entertainment industry?