Aramco to Probably Sell $10 Billion Bond to Buy Sabic Stake

Aramco
Crude oil storage tanks stand in the Juaymah tank farm at Saudi Aramco's Ras Tanura oil refinery and terminal at Ras Tanura, Saudi Arabia, on Monday, Oct. 1, 2018. Speculation is rising over whether Saudi Arabia will break with decades-old policy by using oil as a political weapon, as it vowed to hit back against any punitive measures after the disappearance of government critic Jamal Khashoggi. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Saudi Aramco could tap the bond market for about $10 billion to help fund the acquisition of petrochemicals giant Saudi Basic Industries Corp., according to the country’s Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih.

The kingdom will decide in the “next few weeks” about the size of the proposed bond, though the offering would not be “huge,” Al-Falih told reporters in Abu Dhabi. “It will be probably in about the 10 billion range.”

Aramco plans to tap the market in the second quarter, selling its first international bond and forcing the world’s largest oil producer to disclose its accounts to investors for the first time since its nationalization roughly four decades ago. It may also have to make public details about oil reserves and operations.

Aramco is in talks to buy a 70 percent share in Sabic from the Public Investment Fund, which could cost about $70 billion. Some had expected the potential bond to rank among the largest issued by a company if Aramco planned to finance a large chunk of the Sabic deal with it, though Al-Falih last week played down chatter in the market that Aramco would fund the entire deal with the bond offering.

Saudi Arabia last week sold $7.5 billion of international bonds in the first test of how much damage the killing of columnist Jamal Khashoggi inflicted on investor appetite. While early indications showed the kingdom would have to pay up, the premium narrowed substantially as the day went by.

Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan said in December the nation intends to sell about 120 billion riyals ($32 billion) of local and foreign-currency debt this year to help finance its deficit.