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Saudi Aramco—the gentle giant

Saudi Aramco's downstream reach is expanding fast, but its upstream operations remain central to both the company's future and that of the kingdom

Saudi Aramco is a curious creature. On the one hand it's a quite simple business; but its great size, systematic national and global importance, and opacity make it hard to assess and value. But judging the prospects for the state oil behemoth's initial public offering (IPO), and indeed for the whole Saudi economic reform programme, hinge on understanding it. Aramco's core business, under its original American owners and after its final nationalisation in 1980, was and remains to produce oil from Saudi Arabia's enormous reserves. But along the way, it has acquired new missions, partly arising from its size and partly from its domestic importance. Its nationalisation, which was phased and m

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