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Bloomberg ($):

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince said the kingdom is in talks to sell a 1% stake in state oil giant Saudi Aramco to a “leading global energy company” as he forecast an economic rebound after the coronavirus pandemic.

The kingdom is looking at the potential sale — which could be worth about $19 billion, based on the company’s market value — as a way to lock in customer demand for the country’s crude, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman said in a rare interview on a Saudi television channel late Tuesday. While providing few details on which company is involved in the talks, he said the sale could take place in the next two years.

“I don’t want to give any promises about deals finalizing, but there are discussions happening right now about a 1% acquisition by one of the leading energy companies in the world,” Prince Mohammed, the country’s de facto ruler, said. “I cannot mention the name but it’s a huge company. This deal could be very important in strengthening Aramco’s sales in the country where this company resides.”

China is the largest buyer of Saudi Arabian oil. Almost 30% of the kingdom’s crude exports went to the Asian country last month, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Japan, South Korea and India were the next biggest importers.

Saudi Arabia will likely need to increase crude production further to make up for demand that’s expected to keep rising over the next two decades, according to the crown prince. While consumers such as those in China and India use more, output from producers like the U.S. and Russia is set to drop over the next 10-20 years, leaving a supply gap for Saudi Arabia to fill, Prince Mohammed said.

Even if more pessimistic forecasts predicting that demand will start falling by around 2030 come true, supply will drop even more rapidly, giving Saudi Arabia the opportunity to sell more crude, he said. Prince Mohammed didn’t say by how much the country planned to raise output.

[Matthew Martin, Vivian Nereim, Reema Al Othman and Abeer Abu Omar]

More: Saudis in Talks to Sell Aramco Stake to Global Energy Firm

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