Saudi Aramco bond sale to close Wednesday: minister

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Saudi Aramco bond sale to close Wednesday: minister

Speaking at an event in Riyadh, Falih said the issue will close on Wednesday and that he believed demand for the bond was "north of" $30-billion.

Demand for the paper was the largest for emerging markets bonds since an orderbook value of more than $52bn for Qatar's $12bn bonds past year, and surpasses $67bn in demand for Saudi Arabia's inaugural bonds in 2016. The bonds, which range in maturity from three to 30 years, are expected to attract demand from both emerging markets and investment-grade buyers.

Given the opportunity investors have for a more direct claim on the oil company's assets than they do with the sovereign, and the issuer's lack of debt, the size of the order book will nearly certainly build.

That would represent an oversubscription of three times the size of the bond, if Aramco sticks to its plan to issue around $10-billion in the debt sale, due this week.

"As the world's most profitable company, it can be argued that Aramco does not need to resort to debt offering and that the bond serves a secondary objective to inspire confidence and offer new transparency into Aramco's finances, as the company fires up its global expansion strategy", said Anna Belova, senior oil and gas analyst at GlobalData.

"Aramco is more transparent, has stronger credit metrics and is on an improving ESG (environmental, social and governance) trajectory whereas the government is more complex", said Mohieddine Kronfol, chief investment officer of Global Sukuk and MENA Fixed Income at Franklin Templeton Investments. And later in the bond market itself, where the Saudi government successfully raised debt this year.

Falih is also chairman of state-owned Aramco, the world's largest energy company. But accounts published before the firm's debut in the worldwide bond market also show Aramco - an organization that produces about 10 percent of the world's crude - doesn't generate as much cash per barrel as other leading oil companies like Shell because of a heavy tax burden.

"This deal should do extremely well", said Anthony Simond, a fund manager at Aberdeen Asset Management In London.

Aramco past year postponed a planned initial public offering to 2021.

Aramco has lined up a roster of global investment banks supporting its jumbo bond deal, which suggests the mood around dealing with Saudi Arabia is changing as the impact of the Khashoggi crisis ebbs.

The issue follows on the heels of Aramco's planned $69.1bn acquisition of a 70 per cent stake in petrochemicals company Sabic from the Saudi sovereign wealth fund. Aramco, however, said the bond issue was not linked to the Sabic deal. The offering also includes a three-year floating rate bond.

JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley are managing the bond sale along with Citigroup Inc., Goldman Sachs Group Inc., HSBC Holdings Plc, and NCB Capital Co.

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