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Saudi crown prince 'bullying' mega-rich citizens into buying failing Aramco stocks

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman put the valuation of Aramco at $2 trillion [Getty]

Date of publication: 8 November, 2019

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In an effort to bolster confidence in its upcoming IPO of Aramco, Saudi Arabia's government is reportedly pressuring wealthy individuals to invest.
Saudi Arabia is pressuring its wealthy citizens to invest in its upcoming IPO of Saudi Aramco, according to reports.

Among those approached by the kingdom's government to buy stock in Aramco are the wealthy Olayan family and Prince Alwaleed bin Talal.

Prince Alwaleed, who was ranked by Forbes as the world's 45th richest person in 2017, was the most high-profile detainee among 350 suspects rounded up by Saudi authorities in a 2017 anti-corruption drive and held in Riyadh's Ritz-Carlton hotel. 

It is believed that the prince, whose assets are currently frozen in the kingdom, has been in discussions to buy Aramco stocks.

The Olayan family is said to be considering an investment worth hundreds of millions, while reports have also emerged that the Almajdouie family and the al-Turki clan are expected to invest, according to Bloomberg.

Some of the families named as likely investors in the upcoming IPO had members arrested and held in the Ritz-Carlton in 2017.

According to a Financial Times report from September, one of the former Ritz-Carlton detainees approached regarding the IPO was told that an investment would be a "duty".

"He is now being encouraged to do his patriotic duty for the kingdom," an adviser of the unnamed businessman told FT.

"But there is a limit on how patriotic he wants to be."

The IPO of the world's biggest oil company is the cornerstone of Prince Mohammed economic reform agenda that aims to raise billions by diversifying the economy of the Kingdom and reduce its dependency on oil.

Although bin Salman had put the valuation of the company at $2 trillion in 2016, bankers and company insiders say Aramco’s value is closer to $1.5 trillion.

Even at this valuation, it would still be worth at least 50 percent more than the world's biggest companies such as Microsoft and Apple. It could become the world's biggest IPO depending on how much of the company it decides to sell.

Aramco was expected to launch the IPO in October, but the process has been delayed reportedly due to the crown prince's dissatisfaction with the valuation of the firm.

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