Saudi Energy Minister and Aramco Chairman Khalid al-Falih reacted quickly to deny the 22 August report that the state oil giant’s struggling IPO plans have been axed. Within hours of the Reuters story, Mr Falih issued a statement in the early morning of 23 August that “what will ultimately be a global landmark market offering of unprecedented quality and scale” is progressing.

But Mr Falih’s words ring hollow. That “the Government remains committed to the IPO of Saudi Aramco at a time of its own choosing when conditions are optimum” is hardly a robust statement of intent. But it is in line with his words at June’s Opec Seminar that “the timing is not critical” and while “it would be nice if we can get it done in 2019… [there is] a lot more at stake than just getting it out of the way” (MEES, 20 July). (CONTINUED - 1992 WORDS)