BP CEO Bob Dudley says 'market dislocations' will make Saudi Arabia rethink world's biggest IPO

  • Indecision at the highest levels of Saudi Arabia's government is reportedly playing a major role in holding up the planned flotation of the world's largest oil producer.
  • When Dudley was asked whether he believed Saudi Aramco's IPO was on track to take place in the second half of 2018, he replied: "I don't know, I mean they say it will. I know there's lots of preparation work going on. I think little dislocations in the market will make them think again."

Saudi Arabia could be tempted to reconsider the timing of what is expected to be the biggest-ever initial public offering (IPO) later this year, BP CEO Bob Dudley told CNBC on Tuesday.

Indecision at the highest levels of Saudi Arabia's government is reportedly playing a major role in holding up the planned flotation of the world's largest oil producer.

Saudi Aramco, currently a private company owned by the government in Riyadh, is aiming for an IPO that could raise about $100 billion and attract a valuation in the range of $1 trillion to $2 trillion later this year. But the process has dragged on as key aspects of the share sale remain unsettled.

'Big questions'

When Dudley was asked whether he believed Saudi Aramco's IPO was on track to take place in the second half of 2018, he replied: "I don't know, I mean they say it will. I know there's lots of preparation work going on. I think little dislocations in the market will make them think again."

"The big questions are if they do, when? And where would they list? I think that debate seems to me to be alive and well," he said.

Simon Dawson | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The IPO is the centerpiece of Saudi Arabia's plan to diversify its oil-dependent economy. It also stands to create a huge windfall for the army of bankers and lawyers involved in the offering.

Meanwhile, Saudi officials have claimed preparatory work regarding the IPO has been completed. However, some key issues — such as where to list — rest with the government.

'Huge amount of uncertainty'

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is believed to favor listing Saudi Aramco in New York, while officials, including Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih, have reportedly said London could be a better fit. Hong Kong is also in contention.

Another option is a Saudi listing alongside an international exchange. A domestic listing and a private sale to a strategic investor — possibly from Beijing — is a third possibility.

"There's a huge amount of uncertainty and I think that uncertainty is actually coming from the Saudis themselves to be perfectly honest," Nick Coleman, senior oil analyst at S&P Global Platts, told CNBC on Tuesday.

— CNBC's Tom DiChristoper contributed to this report.