Saudi Aramco acquires $69B stake in petrochemical firm SABIC

By ABDULLAH AL-SHIHRI and AYA BATRAWYFeaturesAssociated Press

Saudi Aramco signed a $69.1 billion deal Wednesday to purchase a 70 percent share in petrochemical firm SABIC, helping pump capital into the kingdom's sovereign wealth fund that the crown prince oversees.

Aramco said it acquired the majority stake in SABIC from the Public Investment Fund (PIF) in a private transaction, leaving the remaining 30 percent of SABIC's publicly traded shares on the Saudi stock exchanged untouched.

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SABIC's market capitalization is estimated at around $100 billion. The petrochemical firm is one of the world's largest, operating in more than 50 countries with 34,000 employees.

The acquisition will help boost Aramco's downstream operations. Aramco currently produces 17 million tons of petrochemicals per year compared to SABIC, which produces 62 million tons.

"This transaction is a major step in accelerating Saudi Aramco's transformative downstream growth strategy of integrated refining and petrochemicals," Aramco CEO Amin Nasser said in a prepared statement.

The national Saudi oil firm aims to double its refining capacity to up to 10 million barrels per day by 2030, with 2 to 3 million barrels per day converted into petrochemicals, which are used to produce plastic and synthetic rubber.

The sale comes amid delays of an initial public offering of Aramco shares on an international exchange, which Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had touted as a way to raise capital for the kingdom's sovereign wealth fund.

Wednesday's deal provides another way to channel funds to the Public Investment Fund for the crown prince's projects in Saudi Arabia aimed at diversifying the economy away from reliance on oil exports for revenue.

PIF Managing Director Yasir Al-Rumayyan described the sale as a "win-win-win transaction" for all three major Saudi entities, but for the fund specifically he said it will "unlock significant capital" for continued long-term investments.

The fund has a $3.5 billion investment in ride hailing service Uber and has partnered with Japan's Softbank to invest in the technology sector. PIF is also behind large-scale projects like the building of an expansive recreational and entertainment space near the capital, Riyadh, and a transformational tourism project along the Red Sea.

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Batrawy reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.