DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Saudi Arabia's crown prince announced Sunday the transfer of a 4% stake of the oil giant Saudi Aramco to a subsidiary of the kingdom's sovereign wealth fund, further boosting its coffers as the kingdom tries to expand its economy beyond oil.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's decision, announced by the state-run Saudi Press Agency, sends the stake to the Saudi Arabian Investment Co., known as Sanabil Investments. Sanabil is under the sovereign wealth fund known as the Public Investment Fund.
“The transfer will also solidify PIF’s strong financial position and credit rating,” the statement about the deal said. It gave no possible investment targets for either Sanabil or the PIF.
Saudi Aramco, formally known as the Saudi Arabian Oil Co., acknowledged the shares going to Sanabil. It said the Saudi government remains the oil firm's biggest shareholder, with over 90% of its stock.
“This is a private transfer between the state and Sanabil, and the company is not a party to the transfer and did not enter into any agreements or pay or receive any proceeds from the transfer,” Aramco said in a stock market filing.
In February 2022, another 4% of Aramco had been transferred to the PIF. Just 1.73% of the company, a narrow sliver, is traded on Saudi Arabia's Tadawul stock market since the company's 2019 initial public offering.
Aramco has a market value of $1.94 trillion, making it the world's third most-valuable firm, behind just Apple and Microsoft respectively. That makes the 4% worth in theory some $77.6 billion.
Aramco stock traded slightly up on the Tadawul to $8.82 a share Sunday.
Aramco reported earning a $161 billion profit last year, claiming the highest-ever recorded by a publicly listed company. That came off the back of energy prices rising after Russia launched its war on Ukraine in February 2022, with sanctions limiting the sale of Moscow’s oil and natural gas in Western markets. Benchmark Brent crude now trades above $86 a barrel, further fueling global inflation worries.
Meanwhile, activists criticized the profits amid global concerns about the burning of fossil fuels accelerating climate change.
Saudi Arabia’s vast oil resources, located close to the surface of its desert expanse, make it one of the world’s least expensive places to produce crude. The crown prince hopes to use the oil wealth to pivot the kingdom off oil sales, like with his planned $500 billion futuristic desert city called Neom and other projects.