Asia's richest man Mukesh Ambani on Wednesday said his group's planned stake sale in oil-to-chemical business to Saudi Aramco for an asking of USD 15 billion has not progressed as per original timelines due to COVID-19.
"We value our two-decade relationship with Aramco and are committed to a long-term partnership," Ambani said at Reliance Industries' annual general meeting.
He, however, did not say if the deal was on track or give a new timeline for its completion.
"Deal with Saudi Aramco hasn't progressed per original timeline due to unforeseen situation in the energy market and COVID-19 situation," he said.
Reliance will be spinning off the oil-to-chemical (O2C) business into a separate subsidiary "to facilitate multiple partnership opportunities," he said.
"We expect to complete this process by early 2021," he said.
Ambani in August last year had announced talks for sale of 20 per cent stake in the O2C business, which comprises of RIL's twin oil refineries at Jamnagar in Gujarat and petrochemical assets, to the world's largest oil exporter, Saudi Aramco. The deal was to be concluded by March 2020 but was delayed.
"Reliance is working to complete the contours of a strategic partnership with Saudi Aramco," Ambani had said in the firm's latest annual report without giving timelines.
The partnership with Aramco would give Jamnagar refineries "access to a wide portfolio of value-accretive crude grades and enhanced feedstock security for higher oil-to-chemicals conversion," he had said in the annual report.
With a stake, Aramco would not just have a share in one of the world's best refineries and the largest integrated petrochemical complex but also access to one of the fastest-growing markets -- a ready-made market for 5 lakh barrels per day of its Arabian crude and offering a potentially bigger downstream role in future.
Besides refineries and petrochemical plants, the O2C business also comprises a 51 per cent stake in the fuel retailing business. It, however, does not include the upstream oil- and gas-producing assets such as the flagging KG-D6 block in the Bay of Bengal.
Ambani said Reliance has concluded the sale of a 49 per cent stake in its fuel retailing venture to BP for Rs 7,629 crore.
RIL's refineries are one of the most complex in the world, allowing it to earn a significant premium to the benchmark Singapore gross refining margin. Its petrochemical complexes rank among the biggest in the world, whose dependency on outside raw materials is minimal. RIL has leadership positions both in the domestic polymer and polyester markets.
The O2C business will be carved out into a division where Aramco will have an economic interest. It will have its own management and accounts just like the conglomerate's digital arm, Jio Platforms.
RIL had organised all its digital businesses including Reliance Jio that has 388 million telecom subscribers, into Jio Platforms. It has sold 32.84 per cent stake in Jio Platforms Ltd - the unit that houses India's youngest but largest telecom firm Jio Infocomm and apps. In total, Jio has raised Rs 1,52,055.45 crore.
RIL was to receive the proceeds from the Aramco stake sale in three stages - 50 per cent on closing, another 25 per cent after one year of closing and the balance 25 per cent in the following year.