The Upcoming Aramco IPO: Strategy, Investment, Politics

May 9, 2017 - 1:00 pm

Atlantic Council, 1030 15th ST NW, 12th Floor
Washington, DC

The Upcoming Aramco IPO: Strategy, Investment, Politics

A conversation with:

Phillip Cornell
Nonresident Senior Fellow, Global Energy Center
Atlantic Council

Ayham Kamel
Director, Middle East and North Africa
Eurasia Group 

Jean-Francois Seznec
Nonresident Senior Fellow, Global Energy Center
Atlantic Council

Moderated by:

Amy Harder
Energy Reporter

Introduced by:

Ambassador Richard Morningstar (Ret.) 
Founding Director and Chairman, Global Energy Center
Atlantic Council

As part of the Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia intends to offer 5 percent of the state-owned Saudi Aramco to foreign investment in what is expected to be the biggest IPO in history. Tentatively slated for 2018, the IPO is highly anticipated—and likely to be highly scrutinized. The Saudi government has estimated that the company, more than twice the size of Exxon Mobil, is worth $2 trillion, making the shares worth a potential $100 billion. However, analysts within the company have warned that Aramco may be worth at least $500 billion less. Amid these questions, Saudi Arabia has undertaken measures to increase the company’s attractiveness to international investors, including slashing Aramco’s tax rate from 85 to 50 percent, attempting to untangle the company’s finances, and exploring potential ventures and investments in natural gas. 

Please join the Atlantic Council's Global Energy Center on May 9 from 1:00 - 2.30 p.m. for a discussion on the outlook for the IPO, its potential impact on financial markets, implications for oil markets, and possible responses from producers.

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Atlantic Council
1030 15th Street NW, 12th Floor (West Tower Elevator) 
Washington, DC 

This event is open to press and on the record. 


Phillip Cornell is a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council's Global Energy Center. He is a specialist on energy and foreign policy, global energy markets and regulatory issues, critical energy infrastructure protection, energy security strategy and policy, Saudi Arabian oil policy, Gulf energy economics, and sustainable energy transition policy. Prior to joining the Atlantic Council, Cornell was a senior corporate planning adviser to the chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) of Saudi Aramco, where he provided market analysis and business development support to the executive management during the implementation of Saudi oil price strategy. In that capacity, he also provided advice to the Royal Court in the context of Saudi economic transition and foreign policy.

From 2011-2014 he was special adviser to the executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA) in Paris, responsible for strategic messaging and policy advice to the executive office of the IEA. Previously, he developed IEA simulations and war-gaming among ministries in preparation for major oil and gas emergencies. Before joining the IEA, Cornell served with NATO as the senior fellow and director of international programs at the NATO School (NSO) in Oberammergau, Germany, where his policy research focused on NATO and energy security. During that period, he also served on the secretary general's committee in Brussels to develop NATO policy in the area of energy infrastructure security. Cornell holds masters degrees with distinction in international economics (energy focus) and European studies (security focus) from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. He received his BA cum laude in international relations from Stanford University.

Ayham Kamel focuses on Iraq, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, and the Levant area (Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon). His sectoral expertise includes the financial industry, banking, hospitality, infrastructure, and oil and gas. He also has experience in integrating country and project risk in financial modeling.  Before joining Eurasia Group, Ayham worked with investment firms in Syria and the Gulf countries where he managed strategic relations with companies from the GCC and Europe. In the Middle East, he provided consulting advice to key executives of regional corporates on pathways to strategic partnerships and restructuring of decision-making processes. He has experience in finance, valuations, business development, and project management. Ayham has also conducted research on geo-strategic issues, foreign aid, democratization, and business operations in emerging markets for the US Senate, the National Democratic Institute, and the Center for International Private Enterprise. Ayham appears regularly on CNBC, BBC, Al Jazeera, and Bloomberg to discuss geopolitics in the Middle East, investment environment, and leadership transitions.  Ayham holds an MA in foreign service from Georgetown University which he earned as a Fulbright scholar. He also holds BS degrees in business administration and international relations from the Lebanese American University. He is fluent in Arabic.

Jean-François Seznec is a nonresident senior fellow in the Global Energy Center. He is also an adjunct professor at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University and at Johns Hopkins' School of Advanced International Studies. He teaches classes on finance, energy, and politics in the Persian Gulf. He holds an MIA from Columbia University (1973), an MA, and his PhD from Yale University (1994). He has published and lectured extensively on chemical and energy-based industries in the Gulf, and their importance in world trade. He is interviewed regularly on national and international TV, radio, and newspapers. Dr. Seznec has twenty-five years of experience in international banking and finance, of which ten years were spent in the Middle East. Dr. Seznec is managing partner of the Lafayette Group, a US-based consulting and investment company. His research centers on the influence of the Arab-Persian Gulf, as well as political and social variables on the financial and oil markets in the region.

Richard L. Morningstar is the founding director and chairman of the Global Energy Center at the Atlantic Council. He served as the US ambassador to the Republic of Azerbaijan from July 2012 to August 2014. Prior to his appointment, since April 2009, he was the Secretary of State's special envoy for Eurasian energy. Prior to that, Morningstar lectured at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and Stanford Law School. From June 1999 to September 2001, he served as United States ambassador to the European Union. Prior to this, Morningstar served as special adviser to the president and secretary of state for Caspian Basin energy diplomacy, where he was responsible for assuring maximum coordination within the executive branch and with other governments and international organizations to promote United States policies on Caspian Basin energy development and transportation. From April 1995 to July 1998, he served as ambassador and special adviser to the president and secretary of state on assistance for the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union, where he oversaw all US bilateral assistance and trade investment activities in the NIS. From 1993 to 1995, he served as senior vice president of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC). Morningstar also served as chairman of the board and chief executive officer of the Costar Corporation from 1990 to 1993 and as president and chief executive officer from 1981 to 1990. He was an attorney with Peabody and Brown (now Nixon and Peabody) in Boston from 1970 to 1981, where he became a partner in 1977. Morningstar served as a commissioner of the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (1989–1993). Prior to returning to the government in 2009, he served as director of the American Councils for International Education, a trustee of the Kosovo-America Educational Foundation, and a trustee of the Eurasia Foundation. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Morningstar received his BA from Harvard in 1967 and JD from Stanford Law School in 1970.