Amin Nasser
Amin Nasser (L) is the CEO of the Dhahran-based companyGetty

Saudi Arabia-owned Saudi Aramco, the world's biggest oil producer, confirmed rumours it is exploring options for a public listing of its shares. The state oil giant issued a statement on Friday (8 January) confirming comments made by the Kingdom's deputy crown prince Muhammad bin Salman al-Saud.

Saudi Aramco said it was "studying various options to allow broad public participation in its equity through the listing in the capital markets of an appropriate percentage of the company's shares and/or the listing of a bundle its downstream subsidiaries".

The possible privatisation is part of a series of restructures in the kingdom, dubbed a "Thatcherite revolution". In the highly unlikely case of complete privatisation, Saudi Aramco would be the most valuable company in the world at somewhere between $1tn (£680bn, €920bn) and $6tn.

"This proposal is consistent with the broad and progressive direction pursued by the kingdom for reforms, including privatisation in various sectors of the Saudi economy and deregulation of markets, which the company strongly supports."

According to an interview with al-Saud with the Economist, some 5% would initially be listed on Riyadh's stock exchange, which was opened up to foreign investors in June 2015.

The move comes at a time of extremely low oil prices, with both US benchmark West Texas Intermediate and European Brent Crude trading below $34 for the first time in more than 10 years.