Moelis Secures Role as Saudi Aramco IPO Adviser

New York-based boutique investment bank Moelis has landed an advisory role on what is widely expected to be the largest initial public offering in history -- Saudi Arabian Oil Co. -- multiple news outlets have reported. 

Saudi Arabian Oil, better known as Saudi Aramco, has been considering a number of banks including Rothschild, Lazard and Moelis, founded by Ken Moelis during the 2007 financial crisis, among others, according to various reports. 

The company has reportedly asked top banks including Goldman, Sachs  (GS) and Morgan Stanley (MS) , as well as others like HSBC Holdings (HBC) ,   which has a competitive Middle East unit, to pitch for an advisory role on an IPO that would value the company at north of $2 trillion.

Meanwhile, JPMorgan Chase  (JPM)  and Michael Klein's consulting firm, M. Klein & Co., have already been selected to advise on the IPO, Bloomberg has reported.

Saudi Aramco recently tapped HSBC Holdings plc's Middle East unit, along with regional banks Riyad Capital, NCB Capital and Alinma Investment, to assist with the sale of riyal-denominated Islamic bonds, or sukuk, ahead of the IPO, according to Bloomberg.

But for Moelis, a bank that might not come to mind as an oil and natural gas transaction powerhouse, or an IPO adviser for that matter, the Saudi Aramco is a mandate of epic proportions. 

Last year, Moelis advised on less than $3 billion worth of announced energy transactions, none of which were in the oil and gas space, according to The Deal's database.

In fact, the last time Moelis played an advisory role on a disclosed deal involving an oil and gas producer was in March of 2013 when the company was the buy-side adviser to Sanchez Energy's acquisition of Hess' (HES) Eagle Ford shale acreage in south Texas for $280 million, The Deal's database shows. 

However, landing a role on Saudi Aramco's IPO likely has more to do with Moelis' reputable leadership than it does with the bank's recent energy advisory roles. 

Just last fall, Ken Moelis was named No. 45 on Bloomberg's list of the most influential people in the financial markets.

Moelis sees his bank's position as a smaller, more focused bank than his rivals as an advantage in playing the role of "trusted adviser," Bloomberg reported at the time

Notably, Bloomberg said then that Moelis was already on the short list of boutiques that might be tapped to help manage the mega-IPO of Saudi Aramco. 

Others who have been pegged for a potential role in the IPO, which is expected to ship off a 5% slice of the company worth more than $100 billion as an initial step in Deputy-crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's years-long plan to diversify Saudi Arabia's economy away from oil, include Mexico City-based international law firm White & Case

White & Case's Wendell Maddrey led the legal team advising Saudi Aramco on its $100 million acquisition of Novomer Inc.'s Converge polyol technology in November. And last March, Maddrey represented Saudi Aramco subsidiary Saudi Refining Inc. on the purchase of Motiva Enterprises LLC from Royal Dutch Shell  (RDS.A) for an undisclosed sum. 

Clifford Chance's Middle East branch also has a strong relationship with Saudi Aramco, often advising the company's lenders, including one of the most recent transactions in which a group of 30 lenders put together a $10 billion revolving credit facility for the oil producer in April 2015.

Meanwhile, a lead member of Prince Mohammed's economic team, Mohammed Al-Sheikh is a former lawyer at Latham & Watkins

A Moelis & Co. official declined to comment.

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