The Sadara Chemical Company, a joint venture of Saudi Aramco and the US’ Dow Chemical, has begun holding preliminary meetings with banks to prepare them for the launch of the commercial funding of the $20bn project.

The meetings follow what are understood to have been successful discussions with eight export credit agencies (ECAs) in late February that are planning to fund the project.

Few details of the funding breakdown for the project have been revealed so far, but it is expected to include about $13bn of commercial and ECA debt, and potentially a Saudi riyal-denominated sukuk (Islamic bond), and an international bond issue. The deal will also include an initial public offering on the Saudi Stock Exchange (Tadawul) and a loan from the local Public Investment Fund.

One banker who has had meetings with the Sadara team says he expects the partners to send out a formal request for financing offers “very soon”.

Sources close to the project have previously said that it planned to start approaching banks to fund the scheme in the second quarter of 2012. The sponsors are also hoping to complete the financing before the end of 2012.

Ali Abuali, chief executive of Sadara Chemical Company, said at a petrochemicals conference in early March that all major contracts for the projects would be awarded by the third quarter of the year.