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Thu 4 Jan 2018 12:14 PM

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Saudi Aramco said to seek adviser for global gas deals

Energy giant also reportedly invites banks to pitch for a role as coordinators and bookrunners for IPO

Saudi Aramco said to seek adviser for global gas deals

Saudi Arabian Oil Co. is seeking to hire a bank to advise on plans to buy natural gas assets, according to people familiar with the matter, ahead of what could be the world’s biggest share sale.

Aramco, as the company is known, in late 2017 invited international banks to pitch for the advisory role to help identify acquisition targets, said the people, asking not to be identified as the information is private. Aramco declined to comment.

Khalid Al-Falih, who is both Aramco chairman and the kingdom’s energy minister, said last month the company is looking for natural gas assets anywhere from the U.S. to East Africa and Russia as the kingdom’s state-owned energy giant hunts for ways to meet soaring domestic demand.

Saudi Arabia diverts tens of millions of barrels of crude every year into its electricity generation plants, particularly during the peak air-conditioning season in the summer. It doesn’t produce enough gas to supply its power stations. Most of the gas it does pump goes to its fast-growing petrochemicals industry.

Biggest share sale

Aramco is also said to have invited banks to pitch for a role as coordinators and bookrunners for its planned initial public offering later this year. The company plans to appoint a group of banks for the deal early this year, the people said.

Saudi Arabia is seeking to sell as much as 5 percent of Aramco as part of a plan by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to set up the world’s biggest sovereign wealth fund and reduce the economy’s reliance on hydrocarbons. The sale could be the largest ever, based on the government’s $2 trillion valuation of the company.

Saudi officials in October reassured investors at a business conference in Riyadh that plans for the Aramco offering were still on track to take place this year, dispelling reports that the process was delayed. The November arrests of Saudi princes and officials accused of corruption won’t harm foreign investment or the kingdom’s plan for the IPO, Al-Falih said that month.

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