King Salman hosts British finance minister in Jeddah

Leaders discuss ways to ‘strengthen economic and financial cooperation’ ahead of anticipated Saudi Aramco IPO.

RIYADH - Saudi Arabia's King Salman hosted British finance minister Philip Hammond for talks in the western city of Jeddah on Sunday, state media said, amid renewed prospects of an overseas stock listing of oil giant Aramco.

The leaders discussed ways to "strengthen economic and financial cooperation" and also reviewed security matters in the wake of "Iranian threats" to regional waterways, the Saudi Press Agency said.

Hammond's visit comes after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman reiterated last month that state-owned Aramco's much-delayed initial public offering -- dubbed as potentially the world's biggest stock sale -- would take place in late 2020 or early 2021.

Saudi Arabia has not announced where the listing will be held, but London, New York and Hong Kong have all vied for a slice of the much-touted IPO.

Hammond was accompanied by London Stock Exchange chief David Schwimmer and investment minister Graham Stuart on his two-day visit to Jeddah that began on Saturday, according to a British government statement.

Saudi Arabia plans to sell up to five percent of the world's largest energy firm and hopes to raise up to $100 billion.

The planned IPO forms the cornerstone of a reform programme envisaged by Prince Mohammed to wean the Saudi economy off its reliance on oil.

Hammond's visit comes after an apparent setback in relations last month when Britain temporarily suspended approving new Saudi arms export licenses that might contribute towards the kingdom's five-year bombing campaign in neighbouring Yemen.

The decision came after a British court ordered the government to "reconsider" the sales due to their toll on the civilian population in Yemen.

The conflict has claimed tens of thousands of lives, according to relief agencies, and triggered what the United Nations describes as the world's worst existing humanitarian crisis.