Aramco Could Stagger Payments for Sabic Deal, Oil Minister Says

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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 could stagger payments for the acquisition of chemical giant Sabic, offering flexibility in how to finance the largest deal in the kingdom’s history, energy minister Khalid Al-Falih said.

Aramco is close to agreeing on the purchase of a 70 percent stake in Sabic from the Public Investment Fund for as much as $70 billion. The state-run oil company carries almost no debt, but plans an unprecedented international bond issue in the second-quarter and has also asked banks to submit proposals for loans.

“We are negotiating with the PIF on what are the payment terms,” Al-Falih, who’s also Aramco’s chairman, said in an interview in Riyadh on Monday. “If the payment terms are extended over a period of time that allows us to pay for a lot of it with self-generated cash.”

Aramco’s acquisition of Saudi Basic Industries Corp., as Sabic is known, was proposed last year after the planned initial public offering of Aramco was postponed because international investors balked at Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s $2 trillion valuation. By channeling money from Aramco to the PIF, two arms of the Saudi state, the Sabic deal offered another route to free up the cash originally sought from the IPO.

“Aramco is the most profitable company in the planet,” Al-Falih said. “Our costs are in the neighborhood of $4 a barrel, so it has the capacity to generate a lot cash.”

The process of accessing the dollar debt market will force the world’s largest oil producer to disclose its accounts to investors for the first time since its nationalization four decades ago. It may also have to make public details about oil reserves and operations.

Aramco has lots of room to borrow as there’s hardly any net debt, accounts obtained by Bloomberg News for the first half of 2017 show. At that time, the company had about $20 billion of borrowings, offset by $19 billion of cash and equivalents.