Saudi Aramco shares increased 10% when they began trading on Wednesday, capping a stock market debut that shattered records but failed to achieve the $2 trillion valuation sought by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Saudi Arabia’s giant state-owned oil monopoly last week pulled off the biggest IPO in history, raising $25.6 billion by selling 1.5% of the company. That exceeded even Alibaba’s 2014 market debut in New York.
The IPO on Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul stock exchange in Riyadh valued Aramco at roughly $1.7 trillion, making it the most valuable publicly traded company in the world ahead of Apple (AAPL), which is worth nearly $1.2 trillion.
Shares in Saudi Aramco shot up to 35.20 riyals ($9.39) following their debut on Wednesday, the maximum daily increase allowed by the exchange. That brought the company’s valuation to $1.88 trillion.
The vast majority of buyers for the stock are in Saudi Arabia. Samba Capital, which managed the IPO, said Tuesday that 97% of retail investors who received shares were from the country. More than 75% of shares sold to institutional investors went to Saudi companies, funds and government institutions.
First promoted in 2016, the company’s partial privatization was supposed to usher in a new era of economic liberalization in Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi government initially discussed floating 5% of the company in 2018 in a deal that would raise as much as $100 billion. It was looking at international markets such as New York or London, as well as Riyadh, signaling that the country was open to global investment.
Yet the project was shelved amid concerns about legal complications in the United States, doubts about the $2 trillion valuation, and international outrage triggered by the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in a Saudi consulate in Turkey.
The deal was revived earlier this year, but received muted interest from international investors. Concerns included lower oil prices, the climate crisis and geopolitical risks associated with the company.
The price of shares will likely be supported in coming days by last week’s decision from OPEC, Russia and other oil producing nations to deepen production cuts in an attempt to shore up prices. Brent crude, the international benchmark, is up 1.8% in the past week.