The world's largest initial public offering is back on track even though global oil prices have slipped below the $60 level.
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Saudi Aramco, the state-run Saudi Arabian oil company, is forging ahead with plans for an IPO, The Wall Street Journal reports, citing people close to the talks. Plans for an IPO were put on hold after Aramco opted to pay $69 billion for a stake in the chemical firm Saudi Basic Industries Corp.
Friday's report comes more than three months after the oil giant's $12 billion bond offering was met with strong demand, quelling concerns the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the kingdom's treatment of social and political activists could dampen investor appetite.
An Aramco IPO, which at one point was expected to value the company at $2 trillion and raise $100 billion, would help the kingdom raise the money it needs to upgrade its military and deliver on Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman's social agenda.
The Saudi military is in need of upgrades as it deals with the ongoing threat from Iran. In May, President Trump ordered Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to proceed with a $7 billion arms sale to the kingdom despite the deal being blocked by the U.S. Congress.
But it is Saudi Arabia's social agenda that would likely see an even greater benefit from an investor-owned Aramco.
Bin Salman recently announced plans to build Neom, a $500 billion city which hopes to incorporate "Jetsons-like" amenities. The city is hoping to have drone taxis, robot maids, genetic modification, artificial rain, a Jurassic Park-style robot island, sand that glows in the dark, robot cage fighting, security that utilizes facial-recognition technology, a fake moon and alcohol – which is banned in the country.
Neom is part of Bin Salman's Saudi Vision 2030 plan, unveiled in April 2016, which aims to develop public-service sectors such as health, education, infrastructure, recreation, and tourism. And there's a lot riding on the plan, which aims to steer the Saudi economy away from its dependence on oil and gas, which currently accounts for about half of its gross domestic product.
"The risk, if the project fails, is that you will see in Saudi Arabia the same kind of demographic and societal pressures that led to the Arab Spring explosions in 2011," Gerald Feierstein, director of Gulf affairs at the Middle East Institute and former U.S. ambassador to Yemen, told FOX News last year.
"Chaos in Saudi Arabia would have obvious implications for regional security and stability as well as for the global economy and access to secure energy markets.”