Saudi Aramco Will Probably Issue $10 Billion Bond for Sabic Deal

(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.

"I think $10 billion of issuance from Aramco will be just the start," said Zehan Mohamed Salleh, fixed-income portfolio manager at First Abu Dhabi Bank PJSC. "We definitely expect them to return later in 2019."

Aramco is in talks to buy 70 percent of 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.

"We expect Saudi Inc to be one of the biggest issuers in the emerging market space this year," Salleh said. "The Saudi sovereign curve has repriced considerably in 2018, so there may be good reasons that the market can absorb the supply."

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