Journalist Spotlight

Dasha Afanasieva on the scoop on London trying to lure Saudi Aramco with new listing structure

Dasha Afanasieva on the scoop on London trying to lure Saudi Aramco with new listing structure

Earlier this month, Reuters exclusively reported that the London Stock Exchange is working on a new type of listing structure that would make it more attractive for oil giant Saudi Aramco to join the bourse. The LSE is seen as one of the front-runners to win part of the IPO, expected to be the largest in history. The Reuters story, by Dasha Afanasieva and Michelle Price, reported the new listing model would allow Aramco to avoid the most onerous corporate governance requirements of a primary listing, without being seen as second class. In a Reuters Best: Journalist Spotlight Q&A, Dasha offers a look at the reporting behind the story.

Q. How did you get started on this story?

A. The Saudi Aramco IPO is in its very early stages but we continue to ask sources about what the latest developments are. Everyone who is involved or hoping to get a role is reluctant to share any information about how things are taking shape so you have to spend a lot of time finding reliable people who will tell you things. After getting the first hint of the lead in London, we were able to build a robust story quite quickly through collaborating with colleagues in other bureaux. Journalists in Hong Kong and Riyadh also worked on this story – and despite the different time zones it all came together smoothly.

Q. What was the hardest part about reporting the story?

A. Getting people to talk about the discussions when they are so confidential has been difficult. Everything is subject to change and they don’t want to give much away.

Q. Why did you think this was an important story to tell Reuters customers and readers?

A. If it goes ahead this will be the biggest initial public offering ever. Everyone from bankers to exchanges wants a slice of the pie, so it’s critical for our clients to know what they are doing to get it: particularly when we are talking about listing rules and corporate governance standards which will affect other companies and investors going forward as well as London’s reputation as a financial centre more broadly.

Q. What makes you passionate about journalism?

A. I’m passionate about journalism because I get a kick out of finding out stuff that isn’t widely known and I enjoy the process of contextualizing and explaining that information. I think that having the time to discover a new subject and then writing about it is an immense privilege.

Q. What is your beat and what do you find most fulfilling about it?

A. I cover deals, with a particular focus on initial public offerings. The most fulfilling thing about it is that almost everything we publish is totally new information: the emphasis is on properly breaking news through trusted sources.

Q. What have been your most rewarding and most difficult experiences as a journalist?

A. I learnt a lot about Turkey in my previous posting and I find this knowledge continues to serve me well in conversations with finance executives because the situation over there is both interesting and complicated. Building sources in the city has been rewarding and difficult in equal measure because it takes a lot of perseverance and patience.

Q. Can you imagine being anything other than a journalist? If so, what?

A. Not at the moment. I used to be an investment banker which has given me an insider perspective on covering financial transactions, but I am more convinced than ever that no other job could give me the satisfaction I get from reporting (on a good day, that is).

To read the latest from Dasha Afanasieva, click here.


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