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DUBAI (Reuters) – Saudi Aramco is set to raise $12 billion with its first international bond issue after receiving more than $100 billion in orders, a record breaking vote of market confidence for the oil giant which has faced investor concerns about government influence over the company. State-owned Aramco’s bond issue, split into maturities ranging from three to 30 years, is seen as a gauge of potential investor interest in the Saudi company’s eventual initial public offering white gold cufflinks. Before the bond deal was marketed on Monday, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said initial indications of interest for the paper were over $30 billion..
Having swelled to over $100 billion during the sale process, demand appeared to be the largest ever for emerging markets bonds, fund managers said, surpassing order book value of more than $52 billion for Qatar’s $12 billion deal last year, $67 billion for Saudi Arabia’s inaugural issue in 2016 and $69 billion orders for Argentina’s $16.5 billion trade that year. Such strong interest was also the latest sign that international investors are pouring money back into Saudi Arabia, as the kingdom tries to move on from the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi after his killing at the hands of Saudi agents in October strained ties with Western allies white gold cufflinks.
“Purely on figures, it is a fantastic credit,” said Damien Buchet, CIO of the EM Total Return Strategy, Finisterre Capital. But he added: “The thing is, they are part of Saudi Arabia, they are a government arm. For equity investors this is always going to be an issue, more so than for bond investors.” white gold cufflinks. The issue has attracted interest from a wide range of investors, as the oil producer’s vast profits would put its debt rating – if unconstrained by its sovereign links – in the same league as independent oil majors like Exxon Mobil and Shell..
Aramco 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. But for some investors Riyadh’s control over the oil giant is an issue as its state ownership means decisions will ultimately be for the benefit of the government rather than investors. “Aramco is more transparent, has stronger credit metrics and is on an improving ESG (environmental, social and governance) trajectory whereas the government is more complex,” said Mohieddine Kronfol, chief investment officer of Global Sukuk and MENA Fixed Income at Franklin Templeton Investments white gold cufflinks.
“The link between the two however is understandably very strong,” he said. Previously reluctant to do so, Aramco last week opened for the first time its books to investor scrutiny, showing it is by far the most profitable company in the world. Having made core earnings of $224 billion last year and with $86 billion in free cash flow at the end of 2018, Aramco does not need to borrow. Initial indications of over $30 billion in investor demand prompted Aramco to market the notes with almost no premium to Saudi government debt white gold cufflinks.