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BlackRock courts investors ahead of Aramco gas pipelines bond sale -sources

By Yousef Saba

DUBAI (Reuters) - BlackRock Inc has held meetings with investors in London to drum up interest in a bond sale to begin refinancing a $13.4 billion loan that backed the asset manager's deal to buy a stake in Saudi Aramco's gas pipelines network, two sources said on Tuesday.

A consortium led by BlackRock agreed to a $15.5 billion lease-and-leaseback agreement with Aramco last year which gives the investors a 49% stake in newly formed subsidiary Aramco Gas Pipelines Co, which will lease usage rights in Aramco's gas pipelines network and lease them back to Aramco for 20 years.

BlackRock held meetings with investors in London, both sources, who are familiar with the matter, said. The world's biggest asset manager also held meetings in Dubai and New York, one of the sources said.

BlackRock ran the investor meetings itself, without the help of a bank, the second source said.

BlackRock and Aramco did not immediately respond to Reuters' requests for comment.

A debut bond sale - expected to be the first of several - is anticipated before the end of the year, the sources said.

In a similar deal last year, Aramco agreed a $12.4 billion deal to sell a 49% stake in its oil pipelines company to a consortium led by U.S.-based EIG Global Energy Partners.

The EIG-led investors in Aramco Oil Pipelines Co sold bonds in January to begin refinancing the $10.8 billion loan that backed the deal. They raised $2.5 billion, falling short of a self-set target of $3.5-4.4 billion amid choppy markets.

Both consortia are now expected to refinance the loans over longer timelines than previously envisioned. They may also explore other refinancing options, such as extending the existing loans or taking new bank debt, the sources said.

(This story was refiled to say gas (not oil) pipelines in headline)

(Reporting by Yousef Saba; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)