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Saudi Arabia’s oil giant sees massive stock offering sell out in hours as investors clamor for annual dividend payouts of $124 billion



Saudi Aramco’s $12 billion share sale sold out shortly after the deal opened on Sunday, in a boon to the government that’s seeking funds to help pay for a massive economic transformation plan.

The government had demand for all shares on offer in a few hours after books opened, according to terms of the deal seen by Bloomberg News. Books were covered within the price range of 26.70 riyals to 29 riyals.

While it wasn’t immediately clear how much of the demand came from overseas, the order book reflected a mix of local and foreign investors, three people familiar with the matter said, declining to be identified as the information is private. 

The extent of foreign participation will be closely watched as an indicator of interest in Saudi assets. During Aramco’s 2019 initial public offering, overseas investors had largely balked at valuation expectations and left the government reliant on local buyers. The $29.4 billion listing drew orders worth $106 billion, and about 23% of shares were allocated to foreign buyers.

A top selling point of the latest offer is the chance to reap one of the world’s biggest dividends. Investors who are willing to look past a steep valuation and the lack of buybacks would cash in on a $124 billion annual payout that Bloomberg Intelligence estimates will give the company a dividend yield of 6.6%.

The government kicked off the deal the same day that OPEC+ gathered to discuss oil output policy. The group agreed to extend its production cuts into 2025, while winding down some of those curbs from later this year. That would allow Saudi Arabia to relax output restrictions on Aramco.

Aramco shares fell 1.9% on Sunday, valuing the company at about $1.8 trillion. The stock has dropped about 14% since the start of this year, when Bloomberg News first reported the government’s intention to offload a stake, and is currently trading at its lowest levels in over a year.

The Saudi government owns about 82% of Aramco, while the kingdom’s wealth fund holds a further 16% stake. The kingdom will continue to be the main shareholder after the offering, which has been in the works for years. 

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in 2021 that the government would look to sell more Aramco shares in the future. Those plans gained momentum a year ago, when the kingdom began working with advisers to study the feasibility of a follow-on offer.

The deal ranks among the largest share sales globally since Aramco’s listing. Proceeds will help fund initiatives to diversify the economy as the kingdom pushes into artificial intelligence, sports, tourism and projects such as Neom. 

The offer adds to Saudi Arabia’s efforts to raise cash to fill a budget deficit. International debt sales this year have brought in $17 billion, more than any other emerging-market sovereign, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The government has also sold $25.5 billion of riyal notes domestically, up from just under $20 billion during the same period a year ago.

The deal coincides with a period of strong demand for new share sales in Saudi Arabia. In recent weeks, four firms drew a combined $176 billion in orders for their initial public offerings as fund managers flocked to deals that have offered near-guaranteed returns over the last two years. 

The government is working with a string of banks on the sale. M. Klein & Co. is as an independent financial adviser alongside Moelis & Co.

SNB Capital is serving as lead manager. It’s also a joint global coordinator along with Citigroup Inc., Goldman Sachs Group Inc., HSBC Holdings Plc, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp. and Morgan Stanley. Al Rajhi Capital, BOC International, BNP Paribas SA, China International Capital Corp., EFG Hermes, Riyad Capital, Saudi Fransi Capital and UBS are bookrunners on the deal.

Some of these banks also worked on Aramco’s IPO, when they were paid just over $100 million for their work. Those relatively small fees are common in the region. In comparison, banks including Goldman and JPMorgan split about $60 million from helping Peloton Interactive Inc. raise just $1.2 billion in 2019.

The government hasn’t yet specified how much banks will net from the latest deal. Instead, the prospectus said the kingdom will pay fees to the bookrunners based on the total value of the offering as well as expenses tied to the share sale.

In all, Saudi Arabia plans to sell 1.545 billion shares, representing a 0.64% stake. The government could raise an additional $1.2 billion if it exercises an option to sell more shares as part of the offering.

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