Saudi Arabian Oil Co. (Aramco) has chosen the New York-based boutique investment bank Moelis & Co to advise on its initial public offering, reports say.
The sale of the world’s biggest oil company is the latest of several moves by the Saudi government to generate revenues in the face of a gaping budget deficit.
Aramco had invited banks in January to pitch for an advisory position on what is expected to be the world’s biggest initial public offering.
JPMorgan, which has been Aramco’s commercial banker for years, and Michael Klein, a former star Citigroup banker, had been advising Saudi authorities on the IPO.
However, the kingdom’s decision to pick a small banker has surprised many observers. International business outlets such as Bloomberg and the Financial Times said the choice represents a coup for Moelis founded no sooner than 2007.
The IPO, which is predicted to raise about $100 billion, is set to yield millions of dollars in fees and push Moelis up in global investment bank rankings.
Last year, Moelis hired Shlomo Yanai, a retired Israeli military officer, to join the firm as a senior adviser. Yanai had earlier been offered the directorship of the Israeli spy agency Mossad by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu but he turned it down.
The oil giant’s initial public offering, holding $2 trillion in assets, is expected to take place in 2018 with an initial sale of a five-percent share.
According to Bloomberg, Aramco expects Moelis to help it select underwriters for the sale, make decisions on potential listing venues and ensure the IPO goes smoothly.
Saudi Arabia is currently dealing with a budget deficit of nearly $100 billion caused by a sharp slump in oil prices as well as Riyadh’s rising military expenditure. The kingdom emerged as the world’s third largest military spender in 2015 when it began its military campaign against Yemen.
The Saudis have also been forced to introduce a series of austerity measures that include canceling of some bonuses offered to state employees and increasing of entry visa fees for residents and foreigners.The ruling Saudi family will transfer the revenue from the sale of Aramco to the country’s public investment fund (PIF), which will then be tapped to purchase strategic financial and industrial assets abroad.