Saudi Aramco considers sukuk

02 February 2016

Size of issuance yet to be decided

State oil major Saudi Aramco is considering a programme of sukuk (Islamic bonds), according to US news agency Bloomberg.

Discussions with banks are at an early stage and the size of the issuance and the arrangers have not been set.

The Saudi Aramco Total Refinery & Petrochemical Company (Satorp) issued a $1bn project refinancing sukuk in 2011. Satorp is a joint venture between Aramco and France’s Total. Sadara Chemical Company, a joint venture of Aramco and the US’ Dow Chemicals, issued a $2.5bn project finance sukuk in 2013.

However, Aramco itself has never issued corporate sukuk, preferring medium-term borrowing from syndicates of domestic and international banks.

In 2015, the oil major increased its revolving credit facility from $4bn to $10bn. Of that, $2bn is thought to be due for renewal in March 2016.

The increased need for credit reflects the massive fall in oil prices from more than $100 a barrel in 2014 to about $30 a barrel at the beginning of 2016.

Aramco is the world’s largest oil company, controlling Saudi Arabia’s oil exports. These reached an average of 10.2 million barrels a day (b/d) in 2015, according to the local Jadwa Investment.

Due to its size and huge resources, Aramco can demand very low margins from lenders, despite rising costs of borrowing in the GCC.

The oil firm is considering an initial public offering (IPO) as part of Saudi Arabia’s efforts towards privatisation and transparency.

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