Saudi Aramco and the US’ Dow Chemical have started expanding the group of banks they are having one-to-one discussions with about funding the pair’s $20bn Sadara Chemical project.

Bankers at several institutions say they have recently been approached directly by Aramco and Dow to start trying to finalise terms for their commitments to the project. They add however, that it remains unclear exactly how much they will be asked to commit and whether they will be asked to provide commercial loans or fund the portions of the deal which have export credit agency (ECA) backing.

The two sponsors behind the project have already been in talks with some lenders for a while, but now appear to have widened the group of banks they are in active discussions with. “We had not heard anything for a while and were wondering what was going on, but we have now been contacted by Aramco,” adds one banker at an international lender.

Work is also continuing on plans to raise around $2bn from a sukuk (Islamic bond), with one source close to the process saying timing of the issue now rests with the regulator, the Capital Market Authority (CMA).

The financing for Sadara is expected to be split between a $6.7bn ECA tranche, $1.5bn of bank debt, a $2bn sukuk, and $2.3bn from two Saudi government agencies.