Riyadh, SPA :
Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, the Second Deputy Premier, Minister of Defense and President of the Council of Economic Affairs and Development, stressed that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia s Vision 2030, approved by the cabinet on Monday, constitutes a roadmap for the kingdom s development and economy objectives for the next 15 years.
In an exclusive interview with Al Arabiya News Channel by Turki Aldakhayel, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was founded by late King Abdul Aziz and his companions without the need for oil, pointing out that it is very dangerous to deal with Aramco company as our constitution. He said that Aramco s reverence by some is a very big problem and we have a state of oil addiction in the kingdom, which disrupted the development. He added that we will turn Aramco into a holding company and move its operations to companies owned by it.
Deputy Crown Prince explained that high risks would have occurred if there had not been a move to offer Aramco for public subscription, saying that the investment fund will not manage Aramco and there will be a board of directors to manage it. He pointed out that we have three strong points on which nobody competes with us: they are our Arab and Islamic depth, our investment strength and our geographical location.
The following is the full text of the interview:
Q: Your highness, you have declared more than once that you will offer part of the shares of the world largest oil company, the Saudi Aramco company, for public subscription both in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and abroad. Everyone is talking about that Aramco is a public property; how did you manage to give up Aramco by this offering?
A: "First of all, we are talking today about a vision. The vision is a road map for our goals of development and economy and other aspects for the next 15 years; Aramco has a very small part of this vision in which there are so many contents. we should not reduce them to Aramco. No doubt that Aramco is part of the main keys of this vision, and for the renaissance of the economy and the renaissance of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia", Deputy Crown Prince said. He pointed out that the IPO of Aramco has several benefits. The first and most important of these benefits is transparency. "People in the past used to be upset that Aramco's files and data are not announced, unclear and not transparent. Today, it will become transparent. If Aramco is listed in the market, this means it must announce its statements and declare every quarter. It will become under the supervision of all Saudi banks and all Saudi analysts and thinkers. All world banks and all research and planning centers in the world will intensively monitor Aramco," the Deputy Crown Prince said. He added that Aramco today works as a facilitating limited company. This is a very dangerous matter: a giant company of this size is managed and treated as a facilitating limited company. I see the portion that will be offered for public subscription as very small, less than five percent.
Q: On what basis this percentage (less than 5 per cent) has been set?
A: First, Aramco's size is very huge. To date, there is no final valuation and we expect Aramco to be valued at more than $ 2 trillion. "We talk about more than 7 trillion Saudi riyals. If only one percent of Aramco's shares was offered for public subscription, it will be the largest IPO in the history of the world," he said.
On possibility of Aramco's IPO in the global market, the Deputy Crown Prince said that Aramco's IPO will be in the Saudi market and there are ideas about finding outlets for Aramco' shares outside the Saudi market. Today, you can buy gold from the US market, or oil through funds in the US market and we have something similar. For example, in the Saudi market there is the Falcom Fund which buys in several companies. Ideas include establishing a fund in the US market only for buying Aramco's shares. This is one of the outlets that will be very important in bringing liquidity for Aramco trade or other companies in the Saudi market. Aramco company is a part of the keys of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 and Aramco's IPO will make it transparent and under the supervision of banks and everyone else.
Q: This means that you will not violate, as some say, any sacred thing when you offer Aramco or part of it for public subscription?
A: This is a very big problem.
Q: Aramco's reverence?
A: Yes. King Abdulaziz and all men who worked with him all over the kingdom, when they established the kingdom, there was no oil. They founded and ran the country without oil and they lived in this country without oil ... Today, oil has become as our constitution; the Quran and Sunnah and then petroleum. This is a very dangerous thing. We have a situation of oil addiction in the kingdom, which disrupted the development in many sectors in the past years.
Q: Is oil the main item on which the economy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia depends?
A: Yes. Oil comes from your work in investment no less, no more. Investment is a company that has value and should be owned as an investment, not owned as a main commodity or a main source of income.
Q: So you are seeking to diversify the sources of income?.
A: Yes. Aramco's IPO has many benefits other than the transparency, its benefits for the Saudi market. When you offer a company of more than seven trillion Saudi riyals in the Saudi market, then you doubled the size of the Saudi market. There is also a second phase of the offering. Aramco's parent company and then its affiliated companies will be offered in the market, it would give the Saudi market a larger size, this the second benefit for the market. The third benefit and the most technically important after Aramco's IPO is shifting Saudi Arabia's income from oil to investment. What remains is how to diversify your investments. Most assets of your investment portfolio are in energy companies, we must diversify the investment by borrowing and entering in other opportunities in order to balance your portfolio, and this is what will be done in the coming years, which will help to increase the size of your portfolio.
Q: So, you will offer initially five percent of Aramco's parent company or of some of its affiliated companies?
A: Less than five percent of the Aramco's parent company and most of Aramco's affiliated companies. We are trying to turn Aramco into a holding company and the operating sector will only belong to the companies owned by Aramco.
On the Public Investment Fund's extent of risk in relation to Aramco, he said that lack of action is much riskier and that "the Public Investment Fund will not manage Aramco in the future. Aramco will be run by a Board of Directors. The Board of Directors will be elected by a general assembly, which represents Aramco's owners. He noted that those owners may be the fund or other citizens, or investment entities at home and abroad, who will buy Aramco's shares. This will make a very huge leap. Preliminary data points out that the fund will be in control of more than ten percent of the world's investment capacity. The fund's size of assets will be more than 3 percent of the global assets. We believe that it will exceed these estimates.
Responding to a question, the Deputy Crown Prince said that privatization of some services such the Red Crescent and Civil Defense is difficult for lack of profitability.
On a question, he said that "will rely on Egypt and Sudan in a very prime way in agriculture, we will rely on Egypt in a very large way in the promotion of our exports to Europe, and we will rely on Egypt in a very prime way in Asian exports to Europe, this will be a very big benefit to Saudi Arabia and Egypt, we also have other programs with the Gulf states linking roads, connecting rail network and linking the ports with each other. He added that "we have programs with Jordan in line with the vision, and all neighboring countries we have with them very strong programs that will be reflected upon them directly."
On the role of civil society institutions in vision 2030, he said that "we focus very strongly on the development of the non-profit sector on private family wealth and I am assure that most of the wealthy families in Saudi Arabia have a very strong desire in non-profit work but they do not find the suitable environment and appropriate regulations that protect their money if they turn them into non-profit institutions that guarantee them work inside and outside Saudi Arabia in a good way. We look to the non-profit sector as an important sector in support of the education process and the march of culture and in the health sector and in the research sector, and we will rely on non-profit sector in a very prime way. There are opportunities to convert some sectors to non-profit sectors such as King Faisal Specialist Hospital and there are ideas considering converting King Saud University to a non-profit institution or non-profit association. There are many initiatives to support and strengthen the non-profit sector.
On the expansion of civil society institutions, he said that "undoubtedly the expansion of the institutions of civil society is very important for work in many sectors.
On privatization of sports clubs, the Deputy Crown Prince said that "we focus on the sports market or football market. We wish it to be a successful market providing revenues for clubs. I think there are many issues that can be addressed in terms of reducing the cost of running Saudi clubs and creating additional profits for clubs. For example, the number of foreign players if increased in the Saudi league and more numbers are allowed, this would directly affect cutting the prices of contracts for Saudi players in light of access to non-Saudi players at a lower price. This will reduce costs of running any club and other measures that will directly support many sports in the kingdom.
On programs to support future leaders preparation, he highlighted support for leaders in all fields.
On private sector's contribution to GDP from 40 to 65 percent, he said Aramco's IPO is a part of supporting the GDP by the private sector because Aramco will be a part of the private sector and not the public sector, stressing that the privatization will increase the proportion of the private sector's productivity.