Saudi Energy Minister: Demand for Aramco Bond Issue Exceeds $30 Bln

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Pension funds and insurance companies in the United States and Taiwan are traditionally interested in investing in long-dated securities to match their own long-term commitments.

The bonds are divided into tranches of three, five, 10, 20 and 30 years. Aramco will set the price of its bonds later on Tuesday.

The business portal noted that demand is high notwithstanding the fact that yields offered may dip below those paid out on Saudi sovereign debt, explaining that demand "reflects intense investor appetite for high-quality paper" following a temporary turn away from the kingdom over the Khashoggi scandal a year ago. Orders tracked upwards to $85 billion by Tuesday, with pricing expected later Tuesday.

The state-owned 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.

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Aramco's first foray into global debt markets had previously been expected to raise around $10 billion, to be put toward the cost of acquiring the Saudi industrial conglomerate SABIC, valued at almost $70 billion. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who runs the country day-to-day, is using the state oil producer's pristine balance sheet to finance his ambitions for the country's economy.

And from a purely investment standpoint, financial analysts seem to think that hitting the debt market makes more sense for Aramco than an initial public offering, which has been in the works for some time and much-delayed over issues of transparency and valuation. The banks not only want to participate on the bond sale, but also ensure they're well placed in case the kingdom goes ahead with an initial public offering for Aramco.

Credit rating agencies Fitch and Moody both made a first-ever assessment of Aramco in a bond prospectus handed to investors after they gained access to the company's accounts.

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

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Al-Falih said on Monday he hopes Aramco's SABIC acquisition will be completed within six months.

Aramco is raising money as bond investors search for higher yields.

Aramco has agreed to buy a 70 percent stake in SABIC from Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund, known as the Public Investment Fund (PIF).

According to the Guardian, the $100 billion demand is an emerging market record, with the highest so far being $69 billion for Argentina's 2016 bond sale.

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