(Corrects Tadawal's market cap to $435 billion, not $340 billion, in penultimate paragraph)
By Andrew Torchia and Hadeel Al Sayegh
RIYADH (Reuters) - The head of the New York Stock Exchange has not given up on the initial public offering (IPO) of Saudi Arabian oil company Aramco, even as the kingdom's bourse operator said it aspired to be the exclusive venue for the listing.
Thursday's comments add to the mystery about Aramco's listing venues as global exchanges compete to win part of the flotation as it will bring a major boost to trading volumes.
Saudi Aramco's chief executive said this week that domestic and international exchanges such as New York, London, Tokyo and Hong Kong have been examined for a partial listing.
The $100 billion IPO is aimed at helping raise the kingdom's profile in the eyes of overseas investors, a key part of its goal to reform the economy that is reliant on oil revenues.
Asked by a reporter whether he had given up, NYSE Group President Thomas Farley replied: "No."
Farley, who is attending an investment conference in Riyadh said the NYSE was talking to Saudi authorities about it but declined to elaborate.
Khalid al-Hussan, chief executive of the Saudi exchange, known as Tadawul, said earlier his exchange aspired to be the exclusive venue for listing the share sale and could absorb all of it.
Such a listing would dwarf anything else on the bourse.
Tadawul was working hard to convince Aramco of the merits of such a move, but the company had not yet decided, he said.
"Tadawul is the main exchange in the region and as the most liquid among the largest 25 exchanges in the world and among the 10 largest emerging markets, Tadawul aspires to be the exclusive venue," he said at an investment conference in Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia expects to value the state-owned oil producer at a minimum of $2 trillion, in what could be the world’s biggest IPO, the centerpiece of its Vision 2030 plan to diversify the economy away from oil.
But some analysts have expressed concern about the risk of the share sale swamping the local market.
Tadawul's market capitalization of Tadawul is about $435 billion. Saudi Basic Industries Corp (SABIC), the largest company listed to date, has a market capitalization of about $78 billion.
"The exclusive listing of Aramco on the Saudi stock exchange is possible but at a speculated valuation of around $2 trillion it will be too large for Tadawul to solely handle the listing of even a 5 percent stake sale," said Nitin Garg, senior analyst at SICO Bahrain. "The Saudi market does not have sufficient liquidity to absorb such a large initial public offering."
(Additional reporting by Saeed Azhar and Tom Arnold; Editing by Edmund Blair)