Saudi Aramco picks HSBC, Japan’s SMBC for $10 billion loan

(Reuters) — Saudi Aramco has chosen HSBC and Japan’s Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC) to coordinate talks with other banks for a loan of about $10 billion the oil giant plans to seek, two sources close to the matter said.

The financing would help the company to back its acquisition of a 70% stake in Saudi Basic Industries Corp (SABIC) from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, a deal worth almost $70 billion, sources told Reuters last week.

The two banks “are coordinating the loan by putting down large amounts,” said one of the sources, who spoke anonymously as the discussions are private.

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Aramco did not comment on the choice of banks, but said it continued to review its financial options “as part of its normal course of business, while prudently preserving its pristine balance sheet and its resilience”.

HSBC declined to comment and SMBC could not be immediately reached for comment.

Aramco is the world’s largest oil producer and its most profitable, but the fundraising plans coincide with historic turmoil in the global oil market.

As oil prices fell again on Wednesday, Brent crude hit its lowest since 1999 in response to a crude glut caused by the new coronavirus outbreak, which has destroyed demand for fuel. [O/R]

While the planned loan would most likely back the SABIC acquisition, one of the sources said Aramco needed cash for other purposes, including dividend payments.

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Aramco, which is more than 98% owned by Saudi Arabia, last month said it planned to cut capital spending because of the coronavirus outbreak after it posted a 21% decline in net profit for last year.

Despite the drop in income, Aramco paid a dividend of $73.2 billion in 2019 and plans to declare a cash dividend of $75 billion in 2020.

Aramco’s shares were trading at 29.4 riyals on Wednesday, well below the 32 riyals price of its initial public offering (IPO) late last year that initially raised $25.6 billion and became the world’s largest.

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Aramco’s shares have declined by 2.7% since Monday, when U.S. crude oil futures (WTI) fell below $0 for the first time ever.

Aramco sold a large part of its shares to Saudi retail investors, with Saudi banks facilitating loans to back their purchases. Many global investors avoided the sale because of concerns ranging from governance to the environment.

HSBC was a top advisor for Aramco’s IPO, while SMBC Nikko Securities, the brokerage unit of the Japanese lender, was hired as a joint bookrunner.

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