Saudi shipper Bahri eyes debut sukuk to fund Vela buy: sources

DUBAI Sun Mar 17, 2013 11:17am EDT

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DUBAI (Reuters) - National Shipping Co of Saudi Arabia 4030.SE (Bahri) is considering a debut Islamic bond issue to help refinance debt taken on for its $1.3 billion acquisition of Saudi Aramco's marine unit last year, three sources said on Sunday.

The purchase of Vela's fleet, which cost 4.88 billion riyals ($1.3 billion), made Bahri the world's fourth-largest owner of very large crude carriers, or VLCCs, with part of the agreement making Bahri the sole provider of VLCC crude oil shipping services to Aramco.

The transaction, which still requires shareholder sign-off before it can be completed, was financed through a 3.2 billion riyals one-year bridge loan and the transfer of 78.75 million new Bahri shares to Aramco valued at 22.25 riyals each, giving the oil firm a 20 percent holding in Bahri post-completion.

HSBC's (HSBA.L) Saudi Arabian unit, JP Morgan Chase (JPM.N), and Samba Financial Group 1090.SE provided the loan and are also frontrunners to manage the sukuk sale, the three sources said.

A spokesman for Bahri in Riyadh declined to comment.

The banks which have provided the bridging loan expect to be involved in the refinancing said one Saudi banker, speaking anonymously as he was not authorized to talk to the media.

The investment banking arm of state lender National Commercial Bank NCMBK.UL could also be involved as an arranger, one of the sources added.

Saudi companies looking to raise funds have increasingly turned to the kingdom's debt capital markets as they aim to diversify funding sources away from bank loans and take advantage of high investor liquidity.

The merger, which was announced in June, would leave Bahri with 77 vessels in its fleet, including 32 VLCCs.

(Reporting by David French and Dinesh Nair; editing by Keiron Henderson)

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