Riyadh will maintain a controlling stake in Saudi Aramco if it decides to sell shares in the world’s biggest oil producer, according to Amin Nasser, the CEO of the company.

“A range of options is being considered, including the listing in the capital markets of an appropriate percentage of Saudi Aramco shares with the government retaining a controlling interest, as well as the option to list a bundle of downstream businesses and interests,” UK news agency Reuters cited a letter by Nasser published in an Aramco weekly magazine.

With crude reserves of 265 billion barrels – more than 15 per cent of all global oil deposits – if Aramco is listed, it could become the first public company valued at $1 trillion, according to analysts’ estimates.

Nasser, who is chairing a steering committee overseeing the process, cited the government’s privatisation initiative and broader economic reforms as the two key drivers behind the move.

In a 4 January interview with UK weekly The Economist, Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman al-Saud said the kingdom may sell shares in the global oil giant as part of a drive to privatise some of the state’s assets amid slumping oil prices.

Capital Economics estimates Aramco could be worth anything from $1 trillion to upwards of $10 trillion. However, in a research note, the London-based firm added that a full and complete privatisation of Aramco’s core activities seems highly unlikely, although a small stake could be listed on the Saudi Stock Exchange (Tadawul).

In an 8 January statement, Aramco confirmed it is mulling several options including selling an appropriate percentage of shares, or listing a bundle of its downstream subsidiaries. Aramco chairman Khalid al-Falih told the Wall Street Journal on 11 January that there was no specific timeline or concrete plan for the listing. However, a listing of the main company, which includes upstream as well as refining and petrochemicals assets, was being considered, he said.