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Saudi Aramco makes return to bond markets

November 17, 2020

Oil producer has hired six banks to underwrite dollar-denominated debt issuance

Saudi Aramco is set to return to global bond markets 19 months after its debut bond issue.

The world's largest oil exporter will begin issuing senior, unsecured bonds denominated in US dollars, but said the amount issued and the bond values are 'subject to market conditions'.

The company is planning to issue three, five, 10, 30 and/or 50-year notes, it said in a statement to the Tadawul exchange, where its shares trade. Aramco has hired Citi, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley and NCB Capital to work on the issue, which is being undertaken under its Global Medium Term Note Programme. The bonds will be traded on the London Stock Exchange.

Saudi Aramco first tapped bond markets for $12 billion in April 2019 and used proceeds to help fund its $69.1bn purchase of a 70 per cent stake in petrochemicals company Saudi Basic Industries Company from the kingdom's Public Investment Fund.

The state oil company later floated a 1.75 per cent stake on Tadawul in the world's biggest public offering in December last year raising $29.4bn.

Saudi Aramco currently has $501bn in total assets with total liabilities of about $204bn, according to its latest bond prospectus. The company operates 'within a conservative financial framework', generating $33.5bn of free cash flow during the first nine months of the year, it said in the prospectus.

Earlier this month, the company reported a 44.6 per cent annual fall in third quarter net profit to 44.21bn riyals ($11.79bn), citing lower crude oil prices and volumes.

Debt issuance by borrowers in the Middle East and North Africa hit a record high of $92.4bn for the first nine months of the year, up 8 per cent on the same period last year, according to Refinitiv's latest MENA Investment Banking Review.

Sovereign and corporate borrowers have looked to take advantage of record low interest rates as central banks inject monetary stimulus to mitigate the economic impact of Covid-19.

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