Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is planning a trip to the UK in March as the country courts Saudi Aramco — the state-owned oil giant.
The 7 March meeting with UK prime minister Theresa May will cover extremism and societal reform, according to a Downing Street spokesman.
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The spokesperson, it was reported by Reuters, said:
The visit will usher in a new era in bilateral relations focused on a partnership that delivers wide-ranging benefits for both the United Kingdom and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The visit will also provide an opportunity to enhance our co-operation in tackling international challenges such as terrorism, extremism, the conflict and humanitarian crisis in Yemen and other regional issues such as Iraq and Syria.
Bin Salman is due to meet with May, the UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson and unnamed senior royals, possibly at Windsor Castle.
It’s expected that the visit will be marred by protests against Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses as well as the conflict and humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
The Stop the War coalition said it plans to picket the talks and said the “chief architect of Saudi Arabia’s brutal war in Yemen” was not welcome in London.
London is currently in the running to become one of the homes of Saudi Aramco when it floats shares, with stock exchanges in New York, Tokyo and Hong Kong also being considered.
If London is chosen it’s expected to be seen as a win for May’s government which has been keen to attract and retain business following the UK’s vote to quit the European Union in June 2016.
Saudi Aramco’s planned IPO remains shrouded in mystery — causing frustration for potential investors, company executives, and financial advisers.
The country wants to sell around 5% of the company by late 2018, which is expected to value it at anywhere between $1 trillion and $2 trillion.
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Khalid al-Falih, energy minister, told the Financial Times last week:
The IPO process is on schedule. That readiness that was meant to be achieved by year-end 2017 by the company and by the regulatory side has all been achieved.
Aramco will be listed. There is no ifs or buts about it”, Mr Falih added, without elaborating on the structure. But he added that: “Tactics have to be worked out and the timing.
Shares will be sold on the domestic Tadawul exchange as well as at least one other international market as the size of the float would eclipse the local exchange.
Wherever is eventually chosen, the listing will potentially be the biggest market float in history and the decision likely to be a high profile tug of war between the UK and the US.
May’s spokesperson added:
The fact that there is a potential listing of Saudi Aramco was discussed, but in no more terms than that.
Meanwhile, bin Salman sacked some of his most senior generals last night, replacing the heads of the ground forces and air defences, as well as civilian officials including several deputy ministers.