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By Marwa Rashad
RIYADH, April 29 (Reuters) - Saudi Basic Industries Corp (SABIC) is studying opportunities to access the African market and set up new plants there as it seeks to seize investment opportunities overseas, Chief Executive Yousef al-Benyan said on Sunday.
"We are studying feasibility of some opportunities to set up plants in Africa...there are three countries being considered," Benyan told a news conference.
Away from Africa, the company has merger and acquisition targets in the United States, Europe and some parts of China, he said, adding that he hoped some of these deals would materialise this year.
SABIC, the world's fourth-biggest petrochemicals company, on Sunday reported a 5.4 percent rise in net profit for the first quarter ended March 31.
Net profit rose to 5.51 billion riyals ($1.47 billion) from 5.23 billion a year earlier.
Gross sales rose 15 percent to 41.86 billion riyals while production rose 7 percent.
The company's results are closely tied to oil prices and economic growth as its plastics, fertilisers and metals are used extensively in the construction, agriculture, industrial and consumer goods sectors.
Benyan said the positive outlook for the global economy and a rise in oil prices as well as the Kingdom's expansionary budget would help the petrochemicals sector.
In February, sources told Reuters SABIC had recently secured a $3 billion bridge loan to meet its ongoing financial requirements.
Asked whether the company would consider raising bonds or sukuk, Benyan said his company had more than 27 billion riyals of debt due to mature this year and that options to raise financing through bonds or other instruments are always available.
$1 = 3.7498 riyals Reporting by Marwa Rashad, editing by Elaine Hardcastle and Jason Neely