Aramco Said to Be Still Considering Range of Options for Sabic

Storage tanks containing Natural Gas Liquids (NGL) stand at a facility in Saudi Aramco's Shaybah oilfield operates in Shaybah, in the Rub' Al-Khali (Empty Quarter) desert in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018. Saudi Arabia is seeking to transform its crude-dependent economy by developing new industries, and is pushing into petrochemicals as a way to earn more from its energy deposits. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Saudi Aramco is still considering a range of options to finance the acquisition of a controlling stake in the country’s largest chemical company, according to people familiar with the matter.

Aramco, the world’s largest oil producer, is undertaking due diligence on the deal — likely to be Saudi Arabia’s biggest ever at up to $70 billion — and will decide on a financial structure next year, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing private deliberations.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that Aramco had abandoned the idea of raising a record-breaking bond to pay for the Sabic stake. Instead, the company could use a combination of syndicated loans and bonds raised on Sabic’s balance sheet, the newspaper reported. One other option under consideration: staggering payments over a period of time, it said.

Aramco declined to immediately comment on the Wall Street Journal story.

The idea of structuring the deal like a leveraged buyout, allowing Sabic’s balance to take the strain, has two advantages. One, it would significantly reduce the amount of financial disclosure required by Aramco. Second, Sabic already has a track record as a bond issuer, reducing the amount of preparatory work required.

Aramco plans to buy a stake of 70 percent in Sabic from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, releasing up to $70 billion in cash for the sovereign wealth fund.

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