For the first time… Saudi oil giant Aramco issues Islamic sukuk

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I started Saudi Aramco Oil Group Monday, the first offering of Islamic sukuk in dollars, at a time when the giant energy company seeks to raise funds in order to finance the distribution of profits to its shareholders.

Aramco said in a statement published on the website of the local financial market, Tadawul, that the offering process will continue until June 17, without specifying the value of the offering, which it said will be “depending on market conditions.”

The offering comes after two previous offers to sell bonds that were not compliant with Islamic law, the first totaling $12 billion in 2019 and the second $8 billion in November last year.

The company is raising funds to help pay an annual dividend of $75 billion, a major revenue stream for the Saudi government, Aramco’s largest shareholder.

Aramco pledged to pay the dividend ahead of its initial public offering on the Saudi stock exchange in December 2019.

But the company’s public finances came under pressure last year when crude oil prices slumped as global demand slumped due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Last month, Aramco reported a 30% jump in first-quarter profit thanks to a rebound in oil prices, but the company’s cash flow level did not reach the $18.75 billion that should be distributed in dividends this quarter.

Aramco is seeking to raise cash while Riyadh faces a ballooning budget deficit for the kingdom, which is seeking to implement multi-billion dollar projects to diversify its oil-dependent economy.

In April, Aramco said it struck a $12.4 billion deal to sell a minority stake in the oil pipeline business to a consortium led by a US-based company.

In the same month, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced a discussion with a foreign energy company to sell it one percent of the shares Aramco oil company Huge, without naming the company.

He also talked about the intention of the Kingdom, the largest oil exporter in the world, to sell stakes to other companies and to offer shares locally.





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