Saudi Aramco Said to Hold Talks With Banks on Islamic Bond

  • Saudi oil company discussed selling bonds over coming years
  • Chairman said this month company plans to maintain spending

Saudi Arabian Oil Co. has held talks with banks about selling Islamic bonds for the first time, according to three people with knowledge of the matter.

Saudi Aramco, as the company is known, discussed setting up a program that could include several shariah-compliant bond sales over the next few years, the people said, asking not to be identified as the information is private. No banks have been appointed and the size of the sale hasn’t been determined, they said.

The state-owned company is maintaining investments in oil and gas projects amid the fall in prices, Chairman Khalid Al-Falih said at a conference last week in Riyadh, and is also studying options including the sale of shares in the parent company or its downstream operations, he said. The oil producer recently held talks with banks to raise $4.7 billion to refinance an oil refinery it developed with China Petroleum & Chemical Corp., people told Bloomberg in December, and last year also borrowed $10 billion, four people with knowledge of the matter said at the time.

A Saudi Aramco Islamic bond issue would be a first for the company. The closest it has come in the past to selling debt is a 3.75 billion-riyal ($1 billion) sukuk issued by Saudi Aramco Total Refining & Petrochemical Co., a joint venture with France’s Total SA known as Satorp. In 2013, another Saudi Aramco joint venture, Sadara Chemical Co. with Dow Chemical Co., raised 7.5 billion riyals through a sukuk to finance a chemicals complex.

A spokesman for Saudi Aramco declined to comment.

Saudi Arabia is seeking to cut its dependence on oil, which accounted for about 73 percent of government revenue last year, according to a statement posted on the finance ministry website when it issued the budget for 2016. The country is forecasting total revenue will fall to 513.8 billion riyals in 2016, from 608 billion riyals last year.

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