(Bloomberg) — Saudi Arabian Oil Co., the world’s largest oil exporter, is in talks with banks to raise a $10 billion loan that could be used to fund acquisitions and other investments, according to four people with knowledge of the matter.
Saudi Aramco, as it’s known, is negotiating with international and local banks to replace an undrawn $4 billion loan, the people said, asking not to be identified as the plans are private. Saudi Aramco told banks that it expects to make withdrawals under the new facility, two of the people said.
Saudi Aramco is expanding into refining and petrochemicals and seeking to boost ties with Asia. It bought a $2 billion stake in S-Oil Corp., South Korea’s third-largest oil refiner, last year and is also a potential bidder for the minority stake in the synthetic-rubber unit of German chemical company Lanxess AG, two people with knowledge of the matter said this month.
The rapid decline in oil prices since June last year may encourage a wave of consolidation and acquisitions in the energy sector. Falling crude has ravaged oil company profits and forced major producers and drillers to slash spending.
A spokesman for Saudi Aramco wasn’t immediately available to comment.
Mergers and acquisitions activity in the energy industry rose 68 percent to $35 billion in 2014, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. French oil company Total SA may take advantage of the downturn in the industry to make acquisitions, Chief Executive Officer Patrick Pouyanne said in February.
The Saudi Aramco loan may be the largest in the Gulf region since 2011, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Saudi Electricity raised a 51 billion-riyal ($13.6 billion) loan in June of that year and Dubai World agreed to more than $10 billion of loans after signing a debt restructuring with creditors in March 2011.
The oil company is also involved in talks to raise $8 billion to fund the expansion of its Rabigh Refining & Petrochemicals Co., known as Petro Rabigh, a joint venture with Sumitomo Chemical Co., people familiar with the plan said in October.
The largest Arab economy is spending billions of dollars to diversify its economy, including expanding refineries and chemical plants. Aramco and Dow Chemical Co. expect to start production at a $20 billion chemicals venture this year.
Brent crude, a pricing benchmark for more than half of the world’s oil, has rebounded 7.3 percent this year to $61.51 a barrel as of 2:13 p.m. Dubai time, after falling almost 50 percent last year.
(c) 2015 Bloomberg.