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As Aramco hails record IPO, Abu Dhabi’s ADNOC whips up $19b

Published : Friday, 17 January, 2020 at 12:00 AM  Count : 48

DUBAI, Jan 16: The talk's all been about Saudi Aramco, and the suspense of its historic drive to whip up international cash. But, more quietly, its Gulf oil peer ADNOC has also been courting foreign funds - and its efforts compare favorably.
Like Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi's economy was hit by a dramatic fall in oil prices in mid-2014, triggering a drive to reduce its dependence on crude. A central part of that has been to reform and modernize state champion ADNOC and attract foreign investment. Unlike Aramco's push for a giant stock market listing, which has been highly publicized and closely watched, ADNOC has gone for a more staggered approach with its fundraising efforts, and there has been little overview of their scope by industry experts.
However the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, to give its full name, has raised more than $19 billion over the past three years from overseas investors, according to Reuters calculations based on publicly released size of investments, signing fees and share sales.
That's equivalent to two-thirds of the $29.4 billion that Saudi Aramco raised in the biggest initial public offering (IPO) in history. Despite the record-breaking December listing, the bulk of the shares were sold to domestic investors after foreign institutions baulked at the valuation.
ADNOC, which supplies nearly 3per cent of global oil demand, has for example struck deals with the world's largest fund manager BlackRock (BLK.N) and with US investment firm KKR, a rare foray for both into national oil companies in the Middle East.
It has also sold stakes in its pipeline infrastructure and refining businesses.
While both Gulf state-controlled firms are aiming to replicate the model of oil majors by expanding in downstream, trading and petrochemicals, their funding strategies diverge, said Dmitry Marinchenko, analyst with Fitch rating agency.
"Aramco is raising funds mainly by conventional borrowing while ADNOC is using more sophisticated forms of funding, including selling minority stakes in subsidiaries," he said. "ADNOC is more open to cooperation with international partners."
It remains to be seen which approach to attracting investment will prove more fruitful in coming years. But at stake could be the companies' ability to
successfully diversify from crude production and, more broadly, for the domestic economies that rely on them to weather oil price shocks.
"The biggest challenge is the uncertainty in the outlook for oil and the growing international scrutiny that all energy companies are facing because of climate change," said Helima Croft, managing director of RBC Capital Markets.
The reforms have been driven by Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, de-facto ruler of the wider United Arab Emirates. Their roots can be traced back to 2016, when oil prices fell to $30 a barrel, hitting state revenues and exposing how sensitive Abu Dhabi finances were to volatile prices.
The crown prince, known as MbZ, appointed ally Sultan al-Jaber as CEO of ADNOC with a plan to restructure the company to make it more efficient and function more like a major than a state monopoly.    -Reuters

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