Traders monitor share prices at a bank in Riyadh. File/Agence France-Presse
Saudi Arabia’s stock market is set for another bumper year of stock market listings with several sizeable initial public offerings (IPO) in the pipeline as investors look to allocate a pile of cash.
After the then record $29.4 billion listing of oil giant Saudi Aramco shone a spotlight on the country’s equity market in late 2019, the kingdom generated IPO proceeds worth $1.45 billion last year despite the woes from the pandemic.
At the same time, total deposits at Saudi commercial banks increased, from nearly 1.8 trillion riyals ($479.88 billion) at the end of 2019 to 1.94 trillion riyals as of December last year, according to central bank data.
“There is surely more liquidity in the market but that is natural after COVID as there is more disposable income to invest,” said Mazen Al-Sudairi, head of research at Al-Rajhi Capital in Riyadh.
Four out of seven IPOs from Gulf countries last year launched on Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul bourse, the largest market in the region with average daily turnover in excess of 8 billion riyals last year, according to data from EFG-Hermes.
The offerings of non-cyclical or defensive shares could not have been better timed, with the sectors outperforming during the pandemic.
Sulaiman Al Habib Medical Services was the largest company in the region to go public, raising $698.6 million, while supermarket chain BinDawood Holding raised $585.1 million.
Tadawul chief executive Khalid Alhussan told Reuters that many Saudi corporates needed to raise capital, while listings helped them become more transparent in their disclosure of information.
“We are seeing also a lot of IPO engagements already; so I anticipate this year to be even higher than last year,” Alhussan said.
The IPO of Alkhorayef Water and Power Technologies is currently underway, while Investcorp-backed Theeb Rent-a-Car is expected in the market by the end of the first quarter.
Utility developer Acwa Power is preparing a $1 billion listing and sizeable deals are expected from Solutions by STC and the specialty chemicals business of Saudi Basic Industries Corporation, which is planning to raise several hundred million dollars at the end of the year or the beginning of next year.
Food delivery firm Jahez could be the first start up to list on the bourse, after announcing plans to go public in 2021, and Saudi Aramco will remain firmly on investors’ radar, after crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman said there were plans to offer more shares in the company.
Meanwhile, Saudi Aramco is preparing a financing package of up to $10 billion that it could offer to buyers of its pipeline business unit, three sources said, as the oil giant seeks to use value from its assets.
Aramco, the world’s biggest oil company, completed the largest initial public offering (IPO) yet in late 2019, raising $25.6 billion. It later sold more shares, taking the total to $29.4 billion.
The company is in talks with banks to provide “staple financing”, which is a financing package provided by the seller that buyers can use to back their purchase.
International investors including BlackRock, KKR and Brookfield Asset Management, which could invest in the pipeline business, are also in talks with lenders on possible financing, said the sources.
The loan could be up to $10 billion covering much of the value of the assets.
Aramco and Brookfield declined to comment. BlackRock and KKR did not respond to comment requests.
Those funds were transferred to the Public Investment Fund (PIF), Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund responsible for transforming the economy, as society grapples with climate change and shifts from fossil fuel towards lower carbon energy.
The pandemic has dealt a further blow to the fossil fuel industry by destroying demand.
Saudi Aramco stuck to a promised $75 billion annual dividend, most of which goes to the government. It will likely need to transfer significant amounts of money to the Saudi government and the PIF in the coming years.
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman said last month Aramco wold sell more shares in the coming years to bolster PIF’s coffers.
Separately, oil extended its rally for a ninth day on Wednesday, its longest winning streak in two years, supported by producer supply cuts and hopes that vaccine rollouts will drive a recovery in demand.
The American Petroleum Institute said on Tuesday crude inventories fell by 3.5 million barrels, versus expectations for a 985,000-barrel build.
Brent crude was up 39 cents, or 0.6%, at $61.48 after touching a 13-month high of $61.49 earlier in the session. US crude was up 27 cents, or 0.5%, to $58.63 and touched $58.69, also a 13-month high.
“One can only wonder whether there’s further to go in this week’s rally,” said Stephen Brennock of broker PVM. “However, as things stand, oil has yet to lose its shine.”
Brent has now risen for nine sessions in a row, its longest sustained period of gains since December 2018-January 2019. Some analysts say a pullback may be on the cards.
“There is no doubt that oil prices have gone too far and too fast, which means a retracement is certainly due,” said Naeem Aslam, chief market analyst at Avatrade.
Crude has jumped since November as governments kicked off vaccination drives for COVID-19, while putting in place large stimulus packages to boost economic activity and the world’s top producers kept a lid on supply.
Top exporter Saudi Arabia is unilaterally reducing supply in February and March, supplementing cuts agreed by other members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and allies, known as OPEC+.
Some analysts forecast supply will undershoot demand in 2021 as more people get vaccinated and start going away on trips and working in offices.
“Saudi-led supply cuts coupled with optimism of a vaccine-led demand revival are spurring an oil market deficit,” said Brennock of PVM.