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Saudi Arabia's Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih Image Credit: Reuters

Singapore: China’s Vice Premier Han Zheng and other officials, including executives from oil refining giant Sinopec, are expected to meet Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister Khalid Al Falih during his visit Friday to Beijing, according to people with knowledge of the plan.

The meeting between the world’s largest oil exporter and the biggest refiner comes as Saudi Arabia restarts work on a potential initial public offering of its state oil giant, Aramco.

Sinopec is preparing to discuss energy cooperation between the two countries and the Aramco IPO may come up during the talks, said the people, who asked not to be identified as the information isn’t public.

Sinopec didn’t respond to requests for comment. Aramco declined to comment.

The Saudi energy giant, officially known as Saudi Arabian Oil Co., has sought to deepen ties in Asia, the world’s top oil consuming region, with refinery deals to bolster its market share against competition from other Mideast producers and growing US output. Sinopec is China’s biggest buyer of Saudi crude.

Aramco, the world’s most profitable company, has held talks with a select group of investment banks to discuss potential roles on the offering, Bloomberg News reported earlier this month. After working with banks for more than two years, Aramco formally put the IPO plans on hold last year and instead decided to buy a $69 billion (Dh253 billion) stake in local chemical giant Saudi Basic Industries Corp.

Chinese state entities held talks with Aramco during its original efforts to drum up interest in the listing. Aramco invited Sinopec, officially known as China Petrochemical Corp., to invest in the company in March 2017. The nation’s sovereign wealth fund, China Investment Corp., and its biggest oil and gas company, China National Petroleum Corp., were also in talks with Saudi Arabia about investing in Aramco back in 2017.