London To Change Rules To Accommodate Aramco IPO

GETTYLondon hopes to win the listing of Saudi Aramco

Industry body the UK Investment Association, which represents fund managers managing $7.4 trillion, previously said it opposed loosening listing rules to accommodate Aramco.

Britain wants to loosen rules on listing state companies, a move that critics say is created to help London win the lucrative IPO of Saudi Arabian oil giant Saudi Aramco but could weaken minority investor influence.

Reuters reported earlier this year that the London Stock Exchange Group was working on a new type of listing structure that would make it more attractive for Aramco to join the bourse.

"No decision has been made on the venue yet", a source close to Aramco told Reuters following Thursday's proposals, which come as the government and City of London are trying to keep Britain's financial markets attractive to worldwide investors and companies after it leaves the European Union.

Britain's Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) proposed on Thursday a new premium listing segment for sovereign controlled companies which will operate alongside the original premium listing segment on the London Stock Exchange. The prime minister, Theresa May, and Xavier Rolet, the head of the LSE, visited Riyadh in April to meet Aramco's chief executive Khalid al-Falih, who is also the kingdom's energy minister.

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Although the listing would clearly be a "prize asset" for the London Stock Exchange (LSE), Royal London said it "flies in the face of what is acceptable".

The new premium listing will include two modifications to the existing premium listing and exempt companies controlled by sovereign states from meeting certain requirements. The FCA also wants to absolve those controlling shareholders from rules that apply to their transactions with the listed company in the present listing regime. Apart from Aramco, large state-owned companies including Abu Dhabi National Oil Co are planning stock sales for their businesses.

The London Stock Exchange is seen one of the frontrunners for the IPO, which is expected to a 5 per cent dual listing on Saudi Arabia's Tadawul and one other global exchange.

The FCA said sovereign owners were different "in both their motivations and their nature" from private ones so it was legitimate to grant them an exemption from some of the requirements for private companies.

"Investors have long recognised this and capital markets are well adapted to assess the treatment of other investors by sovereign countries", he said. However, the FCA is bringing forward a specific proposal for a targeted set of changes to the premium listing regime ahead of other possible proposals arising from the review.

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