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Saudi Aramco's public listing may never happen: Report

Cornerstone of Mohammed bin Salman's economic reforms could be abandoned according to the Wall Street Journal
Celebrated plans to part-privatise Saudi oil company could be dropped altogether (Handout)

Saudi officials fear their country's state oil company is not ready to be publicly listed, casting doubts over whether much-lauded plans at the heart of Saudi Arabia's economic reforms will go ahead at all, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

After two years of preparation for the part-privatisation of Saudi Aramco, officials are worried about the public scrutiny the company would be placed under, according to the US daily.

The newspaper quoted a senior Aramco executive saying the public offering was "almost certainly" not going ahead. 

The plan was key to Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030, a programme of reforms intended to open up and diversify the kingdom's oil-centric economy, and was expected to raise around $100bn. The public listing has been repeatedly delayed, however.

In recent months Saudi Arabia had been preparing for the initial public offering (IPO), when a company offers the first of its shares, but government officials have become increasingly concerned about legal issues, the WSJ reported. 

The final decision would lie with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, according to the newspaper, who first proposed the public offering in 2016. 

The proposed listing has garnered widespread interest in the finance industry. Major banks have helped prepare for the IPO and international stock exchanges are competing for the listing. 

Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih said in June it was not necessary for the listing to be completed by 2019 unless all the right conditions were in place for Saudi Arabia.

Aramco has not replied to requests by Middle East Eye to comment on the report.