Saudi Aramco
Saudi Aramco

Billionaire Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Industries is reported to have held talks with Saudi Aramco on a cash and share deal for sale of a 20 per cent stake in its oil refining and petrochemical arm.

Ambani had in August 2019 announced talks for the sale of a 20 per cent stake in the oil-to-chemicals (O2C) business, which comprises its twin oil refineries at Jamnagar in Gujarat and petrochemical assets, to the world's largest oil exporter.

The deal was to conclude by March 2020 but has been delayed for reasons not disclosed by either company.

Financial Times quoting sources reported that the talks have been revived in recent weeks.

Aramco is weighing paying for the stake with its shares initially and then staggered cash payments over several years, it said adding the proportion of shares versus cash was still up for debate and terms had yet to be finalised.

An email sent to Reliance Industries for comments was not answered.

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman late on Tuesday hinted at talks to sell a minority stake in the Saudi national oil company to a foreign investor. "I don't want to give any promises but there's a discussion for the acquisition of 1 per cent," he said in a television interview.

He did not give details of the deal or the parties involved but added that it would be "very important in strengthening Aramco's sales in the country where this company resides".

Financial Times said talk about the transfer of share ownership could be referring to the Reliance deal but that it was more likely to be related to separate discussions with Chinese and other investors about stake sales in Saudi Aramco.

A stake in Reliance's O2C business would give Aramco an entry into one of the world's fastest-growing fuel markets. It would also give a ready-made market for 5 lakh barrels per day of its Arabian crude and offering a potentially bigger downstream role in the future.

Reliance had in 2019 put USD 75 billion as the value of the O2C business after signing a non-binding letter of intent with Saudi Aramco.

"Saudi Aramco remains in discussion with Reliance for potential partnership," Morgan Stanley had said last month.

Aramco has an equity stake in China's largest O2C project at Zhejiang with a long-term crude supply agreement and a plan to build a network of retail outlets. It also has a fuel retailing joint venture with Sinopec operating 1,000 retail outlets.

"A similar footprint possible in India," Jefferies had said in a separate report last month. "An investment in RIL's O2C subsidiary could give Aramco a similar footprint - a stake in India's largest O2C project with a long-term crude supply agreement and a participation in fuel retailing via the RIL-BP joint venture."

(To receive our E-paper on whatsapp daily, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)

Free Press Journal

www.freepressjournal.in