Saudi Arabia has removed its energy minister as chairman of Saudi Aramco and appointed Yasir al-Rumayyan, a close ally of crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, to the role ahead of its planned blockbuster stock market listing.
Mr Rumayyan, who is on the board of Saudi Aramco, has gained in stature and influence in recent years as the head of the country’s sovereign wealth fund, the main vehicle through which Prince Mohammed has sought to diversify the kingdom’s economy away from oil.
The Public Investment Fund is scrambling for cash to fund Prince Mohammed’s domestic bet and international investments in ride-hailing company Uber, electric carmaker Tesla and SoftBank’s Vision Fund.
The expansion of Mr Rumayyan’s brief, confirmed by people with direct knowledge of the situation and first reported by Bloomberg, comes as Khalid al-Falih, Saudi Aramco’s former chief executive and its chairman since 2015, has seen his position within the government weakened.
While Mr Falih has kept his official role overseeing oil production policy for the kingdom, on Friday he was stripped of part of his government portfolio managing industrial development.
There have been discussions in recent months about replacing Mr Falih as chairman as part of a process to separate the government from Saudi Aramco and improve governance ahead of the IPO.
But the change in chairman highlights the more active role Saudi Arabia’s PIF is taking in the listing preparations for the kingdom’s state energy giant, four people familiar with the IPO process told the Financial Times.
Saudi Aramco did not immediately respond to a request for comment, while the PIF and the energy ministry declined to comment.