Saudi Aramco returns to debt market with dollar bond sale - GulfToday

Saudi Aramco returns to debt market with dollar bond sale

People walk past the logo of Aramco at the Plaza Conference Centre in Dhahran.

Picture used for illustrative purpose only.

Saudi state oil giant Aramco made its return to the debt market on Tuesday after a three-year hiatus, joining top companies and governments in the Gulf that have tapped markets this year to fund investments.

Aramco hired banks to sell bonds maturing in 10, 30 and 40 years, a document from one of the banks working on the deal showed. Aramco is likely to raise at least $3 billion across the three tranches, a source with knowledge of the matter said.

The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"The timing suggests Aramco is taking advantage of the last window ahead of the summer illiquidity," Zeina Rizk, co-head of fixed income at Amwal Capital Partners told Reuters.

Gulf companies and governments have raise funds in debt markets this year to take advantage of favourable market conditions, with top oil exporter Saudi Arabia issuing $12 billion of dollar-denominated bonds in January and $5 billion in sukuk, or Islamic bonds, in May.

Aramco, which last tapped global debt markets in 2021 when it raised $6 billion from three-tranche sukuk, flagged in February it was likely to issue bonds this year.

Aramco has long been a cash cow for the Saudi state, fuelling decades of prosperity. It expects to declare $124.3 billion in dividends for 2024, the majority of which goes to the Saudi government.

Last month, the oil giant awarded $25 billion worth of contracts for its gas expansion plans, said it would buy 10% of Renault and Geely's thermal engines joint venture Horse Powertrain and announced a non-binding deal with U.S. energy firm Sempra to buy liquefied natural gas.

Aramco's bond sale is "likely an indication the company will continue to pursue acquisitions aggressively", said Yousef Husseini, an analyst at EFG Hermes.

A portion of Aramco's dividends also go to the Public Investment Fund - the kingdom's sovereign wealth fund steering its goal of weaning the economy off oil - which owns 16%.

The government, which directly owns about 81.5% of Aramco, raised $11.2 billion by selling a slice of shares in its crown jewel last month. Proceeds could boost the country's funding and its aim of shifting the economy away from oil under a plan called "Vision 2030".

PIF, which has spent billions on everything from electric cars to sports and planned futuristic cities in the desert, has also raised almost $8 billion from three debt sales.

"As Saudi Arabia's funding needs for its investment programme remain significant in the medium-term despite some timelines being extended, and in the absence of hoped-for levels of FDI, tapping the debt markets reduces pressure on domestic funding and liquidity," said Monica Malik, chief economist at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank.

Citi, Goldman Sachs International, HSBC , JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and SNB Capital have been appointed as joint active bookrunners for the three-part bond sale.

The banks will arrange investor calls on Tuesday for the potential sale of benchmark-sized notes, according to the document, which did not disclose the size of the issuance.

Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, BofA Securities, the Bank of China, Emirates NBD, First Abu Dhabi Bank, GIB Capital and Mizuho are among the bank that are acting as joint passive bookrunners.

Aramco's 40-year tranche would become its second-longest dated bonds after $2.25 billion of notes due in November 2070.


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