Aramco gives initial guidance for six-tranche debut dollar bond

A view of the Haradh gas plant located at the southern tip of the Ghawar oil field which is the largest conventional oil field in the world

A view of the Haradh gas plant located at the southern tip of the Ghawar oil field which is the largest conventional oil field in the world

Before the Six-part Bond deal was disclosed on Monday, Saudi Energy Minister, Khalid al-Falih expressed that the initial indications of interest valued at about $10 Billion.

Demand for the paper was the largest for emerging markets bonds since an orderbook value of more than $52 billion for Qatar's $12 billion deal past year.

Sergey Dergachev, a manager of emerging market corporate debt at Germany-based Union Investment, said ahead of the issue that he expected demand for to reach $45 billion-$50 billion, as the issue's different maturities would attract a wide range of investors from different regions.

The state company has insisted on its independence while meeting investors ahead of the bond issue last week, saying the Saudi government remained committed to Aramco's governance framework to safeguard its independence even when oil prices dropped.

Both Fitch Ratings and Moody's Investors Service assigned Aramco the fifth-highest investment-grade rating, the same as Saudi sovereign debt, but lower than oil majors Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell and Chevron.

The initial yield over U.S. Treasury securities looks to be barely more than those available for the sovereign's dollar bonds.

While the market knew the size was going to be big, "what is worth highlighting is that the quality is impressive - much better than the market had been expecting", said Mohieddine Kronfol, chief investment officer of Global Sukuk and MENA Fixed Income at Franklin Templeton Investments.

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People familiar with the matter told Reuters news agency that Aramco's vast profits - almost three times those of Apple previous year - meant investors were willing to buy the bonds even if they end up getting a lower return than on Saudi sovereign debt.

Having made core earnings of $224bn previous year and with $86bn in free cash flow at the end of 2018, Aramco does not need to borrow.

The longer-dated tranches offer a small premium over Saudi sovereign debt, but this is expected to shrink as the notes are marketed.

"They are clearly trying to price it [the bond] off existing AA corporates in this world, so people are looking at curves like Shell, Total, Exxon but also technology giants like Apple", said Mr Buchet.

The bond will create a United States dollar curve for the company, and also finance the US$69bn acquisition of 70% of Saudi Basic Industries Corp (SABIC), a petrochemical company from the kingdom's wealth fund. It said it will pay for most of the SABIC purchase in cash.

Aramco previous year postponed until 2021 an initial public offering (IPO) aimed at raising money for a government looking to cut its budget deficit and diversify its economy beyond oil.

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