Saudi Aramco has agreed to buy 20% of Reliance Industries Ltd.’s flagship chemicals and refining business in a deal valued at $15 billion that will boost the refining capacity of the world’s largest oil producer.
The acquisition would be one of Aramco’s largest foreign investments and, according to The Wall Street Journal, “comes as it is trying to win over potential global investors for a possible listing that is now back on the front burner among Aramco executives and Saudi government officials.”
As part of the deal, Aramco will supply 500,000 barrels per day of crude oil on a long-term basis to RIL’s Jamnagar refinery.
India’s Reliance Industries has been seeking to reduce a debt load that has ballooned due to its large investments in its telecom business. Reliance Chairman Mukesh Ambani, Asia’s richest man, told shareholders on Monday that it is aiming to become a zero-debt company in the next 18 months.
“Now we have transformed our longstanding relationship of two decades, based on mutual trust, into a partnership of growth potential for many years to come,” Ambani said in announcing the deal on Monday.
State-owned Aramco, the most profitable company in the world, controls the world’s second-largest proven crude reserves at more than 270 billion barrels. As The Financial Times reports, it “has increased its investments in Asian refineries in recent years as it seeks to lock in sales of crude in the coming years. It has long sought a bigger presence in India to take advantage of the country’s rising oil demand.”
According to the WSJ, it is “trying to become more like Exxon Mobil Corp. or Chevron Corp. , which refine and process as much oil in their ‘downstream’ businesses as they pump upstream.” Its IPO plans have “bogged down amid disagreements over such matters as valuation and the venue for a listing,” the Journal said.
Reliance’s total financial liabilities rose to $65 billion as of March 31 from $19 billion at the end of March 2015, resulting in interest costs rising almost fourfold to $4 billion during the period.
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