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Saudi Oil Minister: Aramco Set To Go Public In 2021

Saudi Aramco is on track to become a public company in 2021, Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said during an oil conference in Abu Dhabi.

Gulf News quoted the official as saying Aramco was the world’s most important and most valuable oil company. “This bodes well for the company’s bond plans, which will be launched in a few months, ahead of the acquisition of Sabic shares from PIF [Public Investment Fund] and of course the IPO [which is] not too distant in the future.”

Al-Falih said earlier that Aramco was planning to issue its first international bond, probably worth around US$10 billion, to fund part of the acquisition of a majority stake in petrochemical giant Sabic from the Saudi sovereign wealth fund. The 70-percent stake was calculated at between US$50 and US$70 billion.

Last year, media reported that Aramco was planning a US$40-billion bond sale to fund the acquisition that would expand its presence in petrochemicals, but it dropped this plan. The Wall Street Journal reported in November that the oil major had been concerned about requirements for disclosure as well as the volatility and uncertain outlook for oil prices, according to unnamed sources familiar with the developments.

The smaller bond Al-Falih talked about in Abu Dhabi, likely to take place in the second quarter of the year, would also require the company to make its accounts public for the first time since its nationalization back in the 1970s. It will also have to divulge details about its reserves and operations.

Recently, a third-party reserve audit by DeGolyer and MacNaughton found that Aramco had reserves of 263.1 billion barrels, a bit over 2 billion barrels more than the company has been reporting for years. This should be good news for potential investors, but they will need the company’s accounts, too, before they decide to buy its bond.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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