HK bourse eyes Aramco IPO

Charles Li

HONG KONG — Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing is still in talks with Saudi Aramco, with the bourse’s planned IPO investment link with China key to clinching the potential listing, Chief Executive Charles Li said.

In February, Li said the stock exchange would bank on its role as a gateway to China’s deep-pocketed investors to win the coveted listing of state oil firm Saudi Arabian Oil.

Addressing a Reuters Newsmaker event, Li, who has previously worked with JPMorgan and Bank of America Merrill Lynch in China, said “the talk will never stop” in trying to woo Aramco, with China now one of the largest importers of Saudi crude.

Li said, however, that a so-called primary stock connect, which would allow mainland Chinese investors to participate in Hong Kong initial public offerings (IPOs), would be pivotal in convincing Aramco to list in the Asian financial hub.

He did not give a timeline for the start of the primary connect program, the talks for which are ongoing.

Saudi authorities plan to list up to 5 percent of the world’s largest oil producer on the Saudi stock exchange in Riyadh and also one or more international markets, potentially raising as much as $100 billion. Saudi Arabia favors New York for the main foreign listing, even though some financial and legal advisers have recommended London as a less problematic and risky option, sources said.

“Having a rival liquidity pool that is supported by domestic Chinese liquidity that trades and invests at a very different valuation ... allows them to walk on two legs globally at different clocks of trading,” Li said.

Li also said he expects to conclude final recommendations “in the coming weeks” on rules for a new trading board, aimed at luring secondary listings from Chinese firms such as Baidu, as well as “new-economy” startups in sectors such as the Internet and bio-technology. — Reuters