Saudi Aramco said to approach Asian state oil majors on IPO

By BLOOMBERG / Pic By BLOOMBERG

LONDON • Saudi Arabian Oil Co (Aramco) has approached Asian state oil producers including Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas) and China Petrochemical Corp (Sinopec Group) about potential cornerstone investments in its initial public offering (IPO), people with knowledge of the matter said.

The Gulf energy giant and its advisors have recently been holding talks with potential investors including China’s sovereign wealth fund and China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC), according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is private.

They have also reached out to state-owned entities from the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, including Abu Dhabi sovereign fund Mubadala Investment Co (PJSC), as well as Canadian pension funds, the people said.

Deliberations are at a preliminary stage and Aramco hasn’t yet received any firm commitments, the people said.

Aramco’s advisors are arranging meetings with some potential cornerstone investors this week and next week, according to the people. The funds could decide against buying into the offering, they said.

Aramco is leaning on business partners and friendly governments to help achieve its preferred valuation of US$2 trillion (RM8.4 trillion) even after oil prices fell more than 25% over the past year.

It’s casting a wide net to attract enough demand as it accelerates preparations for the listing, with an aim of listing on the Saudi bourse as soon as November.

Petronas partnered with Aramco on its US$27 billion refinery and petrochemical complex in Johor Baru.

Aramco has been deepening its ties in Asia, the world’s top oil consuming region, with refinery deals to bolster its market share.

It is also working with Sinopec on several projects. The companies have a refining and petrochemical joint venture in China’s southeastern Fujian province. And a unit of the refining giant, Sinopec Oilfield Service Corp, signed a US$340 million contract with Aramco for four rigs in March, strengthening its position as Aramco’s biggest onshore drilling contractor.

The Chinese company also inked a deal in July to work on two pipeline projects at Aramco’s Marjan oilfield.

Chinese state entities held talks with Aramco during its original efforts to drum up interest in the listing. Aramco invited Sinopec Group to invest in March 2017. The company, officially known as China Petrochemical Corp, is the country’s biggest buyer of Saudi crude.

CNPC, which controls publicly- listed PetroChina Co, and sovereign fund China Investment Corp (CIC) were also in talks with Saudi Arabia about investing in Aramco in 2017, people with knowledge of the matter said at the time.

Aramco and Mubadala declined to comment. Representatives for Petronas, CIC, CNPC and Sinopec Group didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Reuters reported the approach to Mubadala last week, citing unidentified people. — Bloomberg