Saudi Aramco is considering tapping the international bond market for the first time to finance the acquisition of petrochemical giant Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (Sabic), according to a Bloomberg report.
This could be a move into global capital markets that could offer an alternative to an initial public offering (IPO).
The plans for a bond, likely to be combined with banks loans, are very preliminary but would allow the state-owned company to raise cash to pay the Public Investment Fund (PIF) , the country’s sovereign wealth fund, for the 70 per cent stake it owns in Sabic, valued at about $70bn.
In turn, the PIF would obtain the money it had initially hoped to raise from the Aramco IPO, the same people said, as per the report.
Aramco hasn’t yet started talks about the size of any bond, which would depend on how large a stake it buys in Sabic and how much the banks are willing to lend directly.
Aramco has appointed JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Morgan Stanley to advise on the Sabic deal, the report said.
In addition, the Saudi state-owned oil company is likely to appoint two to three other banks.
Both JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley were already working on the IPO preparations.
If Aramco goes ahead with an international bond – potentially among the biggest ever done by a corporate issuer – the sale would obligate the Saudi energy giant to disclose its accounts to investors for the first time, along with many other details about oil reserves and operations.
Aramco has so far largely avoided bond markets, relying almost exclusively on its own cash or bank loans. The closest it has come to issue debt is last year when it sold a debut local currency Islamic bond, or sukuk.
The prospectus for the 2017 sukuk, which raised about $3bn, didn’t include any financial information on Aramco.
Saudi Aramco has already indicated that the talks to buy a strategic stake in Sabic would likely further delay its planned IPO.
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