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Saudi Aramco chairman says IPO could be open to international markets: Arabiya TV

Saudi Aramco Chief Executive Officer Khalid al-Falih speaks to the media at the company's booth during Petrotech 2014 (a petrochemicals conference) at the Bahrain International Exhibition Centre in Manama May 19, 2014. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

DUBAI (Reuters) - An initial public offering of Saudi Aramco, the world's biggest oil company, could be on the local or international markets but would not include Saudi energy reserves, the company's chairman told Saudi-owned al-Arabiya television.

"The reserves would not be sold, but the company's ability to produce from the reserves is being studied," Khalid al-Falih told the channel in an interview from Davos, Switzerland where the annual World Economic Forum was held last week.

In an interview with The Economist earlier this month, Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said Riyadh might sell shares in Aramco as part of a privatization drive.

Aramco has crude reserves estimated at about 265 billion barrels, over 15 percent of all global oil deposits, so it could become the first listed company valued at $1 trillion or more if it went public, analysts have estimated.

But several sources familiar with official thinking told Reuters that Aramco's massive size, and the confidentiality surrounding it as the main instrument of the kingdom's oil policy, pose hurdles to any listing of the parent firm. They said Saudi Arabia is considering selling shares in refining ventures with foreign oil firms.

Falih said there would be legal studies to make sure that what is offered is not the kingdom's crude reserves "but the company's ability to convert the production of these reserves to a financial value that the owners can benefit from.

"The economic value of Saudi Aramco as a company is what will be offered. Naturally, the primary field of Saudi Aramco's work is managing the reserves of Saudi Arabia," Falih said.

"The reserves belong to the state but the company's ability to convert these reserves... into a financial value and at the same time for the company to have a portion of these profits will be part of the value of the company," he told Arabiya.

(Reporting By Noah Browning, Hadeel al-Sayegh and Mostafa Hashem; Editing by Sami Aboudi and Rania El Gamal/Mark Heinrich)