Saudi Aramco Becomes Highest Valued Company In History As Climate Question Looms
“It is a bad time to buy into an oil company whose major asset is reserves in the ground that can sustain current production levels of the carbon-laden fossil fuel until near the end of the century.”
Saudi Aramco became the world’s most valuable public company on Wednesday after debuting on the country’s stock exchange, even touching the $2 trillion market value sought by Prince Mohammad bin Salman on its second of trading Thursday.
Yet despite the oil giant’s impressive valuation, the future of the oil industry is uncertain amid growing calls for a global transition to clean energy. The day before Saudi Aramco’s public offering, Chevron announced it would write down at least $10 billion in assets in what analysts interpreted as a signal of increased investor disapproval with fossil fuel use. A week earlier, Spanish energy company Repsol announced a $5.3 billion write-down of its assets and pledged to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
“Whether enthusiasm holds up longer term will in part rest upon the host nation’s ability to stay relevant for the world’s future energy needs,” head of research at London Capital Group Jasper Lawler told the Guardian in reference of Saudi Aramco’s uncertain future. “The oil industry needs to adapt to higher supply from the United States and calls for lower fossil fuel use because of climate change.
“”It is a bad time to buy into an oil company whose major asset is reserves in the ground that can sustain current production levels of the carbon-laden fossil fuel until near the end of the century,” wrote Bloomberg’s Julian Lee.
Saudi Aramco is valued higher than the next five listed oil companies put together and substantially higher than Apple, the world’s previous biggest company at about $1.19 trillion. Only 1.5% of Aramco’s shares were sold to investors so far, with most of those investors within the Kingdom and the Middle East. Prince Mohammad bin Salman hopes to use the capital inflow to diversify the Saudi economy.
Environmental Groups Warn Bankers
In October, ten environmental groups sent letters to international banks involved in Aramco’s IPO, warning that injecting capital into the world’s largest corporate emitter of greenhouse gases will hurt the fight against climate change and empower human rights abusers, “given the horrendous human rights record of the Saudi regime.”
“Recent examples of this include the role of Saudi agents in the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018, and the involvement of Saudi forces in indiscriminate airstrikes on civilians in Yemen.”
“If you go ahead as lead coordinators in raising tens of billions of dollars for the world’s biggest climate polluter … it will be clear that your words of environmental and social concern are devoid of all sincerity, and that when push comes to shove your concerns for short-term profit outweigh all else,” the groups wrote in the letter.
Despite Saudi Arabia’s humanitarian crimes, investment index providers “MSCI, S&P Dow Jones and FTSE Russell, which is owned by the London Stock Exchange, have all said they will fast-track the inclusion of Aramco shares into their indices, which would mean investors around the world, including pension funds, would automatically be forced to buy shares,” according to the Guardian.
Saudi Aramco’s Rebranding Project
Saudi Aramco is currently seeking to rebrand itself as a climate leader in a similar effort to other fossil fuel giants that are currently sponsoring the COP25 summit in Spain.
“There is no limit to our industry’s potential if we can meet society’s demand for ultra-clean energy,” said Aramco CEO Amin Nasser in September.
The Saudi royal family’s alleged commitment to finding climate solutions is contradicted by its longstanding and continued sponsorship of groups that lobby against clean energy, including a “recent investigation found that both AFPM and API (American Petroleum Institute) are deeply involved in a state-based effort to obstruct electric vehicle investments,” wrote the Intercept’s Lee Fang and Sharon Lerner.
Saudi Arabia and Yemen, where the kingdom is currently waging a bombing campaign that experts call the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, are already experiencing intense effects from climate change. “This summer, the temperature in Al Majmaah, a city in central Saudi Arabia, reached 131 degrees Fahrenheit, while rapid desertification was reported throughout the Arabian peninsula,” wrote the Intercept.