Reliance teams with Saudi Aramco in biggest FDI deal

The partnership will cover all of Reliance's refining and petrochemicals assets, Ambani said. (Reuters File Photo)

Reliance Industries will sell 20 per cent stake in its oil and chemicals business to Saudi oil giant Aramco for about USD 15 billion (approximately Rs 1.06 lakh crore) and nearly half of its fuel retail business to BP of UK for Rs 7,000 crore, its chairman Mukesh Ambani said on Monday.

Announcing the deals at the company's 42nd annual general meeting, an agreement has been reached for Saudi Aramco to buy a 20 per cent stake in Reliance Industries' oil-to-chemicals division at an enterprise value of USD 75 billion.

"This is the biggest foreign investment in the history of Reliance," he said. "It is also amongst the largest foreign investments ever in India."

The deal covers all of Reliance's refining and petrochemicals assets as well as the remainder of stake the firm has in fuel retailing business after selling 49 per cent to BP, he said.

Aramco, the world's biggest crude exporter, will also supply Reliance's twin-refineries at Jamnagar in Gujarat with 7,00,000 barrels of oil a day on a long-term basis, Ambani said.

The deal is subject to due diligence, definitive agreements and regulatory and other approvals, he said.

He said BP will pay about Rs 7,000 crore for acquiring a 49 per cent stake in Reliance's fuel retailing network.

Last week, the two firms had announced a new joint venture to set up petrol pumps and retail aviation turbine fuel to airlines in India.

Reliance's existing 1,400-odd petrol pumps, as well as 31 aviation fuel stations, will be transferred to the new joint venture where BP will hold 49 per cent equity stake. Reliance will hold the balance 51 per cent in the entity, which aims to expand the retail network to 5,500 petrol pumps in the next five years, the two firms had said.

"In a significant new initiative, BP acquired a 49 per cent stake in our Petro-retail business. Reliance will get Rs 7,000 crore from BP for this transaction," Ambani said at the AGM.

The twin deals will help cut some of the Rs 2,88,243 crore group debt.

This is the third joint venture between Reliance and BP since 2011.

BP had in 2011 bought 30 per cent stake in 21 oil and gas exploration and production blocks of Reliance for USD 7.2 billion. At that time, another 50:50 joint venture, India Gas Solutions, was set up for sourcing and marketing gas in India.

The country currently has nearly 65,000 petrol pumps, with public sector retailers owning 58,174. PSU retailers have plans to double this network and have already starting appointing dealers.

Russia's Rosneft-backed Nayara Energy, formerly Essar Oil, has 5,244 petrol pumps and has plans to scale them up to more than 7,000 in two-three years.

Royal Dutch Shell has 151 outlets and is slated to add 150-200 more petrol pumps.

BP had in 2016 received a licence from the government to set up 3,500 petrol pumps in India.

French energy giant Total SA too is keen on entering the Indian retail market and has tied up with Adani Group for the same.

The deal with Saudi Aramco first came to light when Ambani met with Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih in December last year to discuss opportunities for joint investments in petrochemical, refining and communications projects, according to a tweet from the latter at the time.

The Saudi national oil company, along with its partner UAE's Abu Dabhi National Oil Co (ADNOC) has taken a 50 per cent stake in a planned USD 60-billion mega refinery-cum-petrochemical complex in Maharashtra by state-owned oil companies, has a bullish outlook on India's energy demand and is keen on investing here.

Reliance operates two refineries in Jamnagar, Gujarat, with a total capacity of 68.2 million tonnes per annum.

It plans to expand its only-for-exports special economic zone (SEZ) refining capacity to just over 41 million tonnes from current 35.2 million tonnes but does not have any plans to set up a new refinery in the country.

It is currently focused on expanding petrochemical and telecom business.

Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, is keen to get a foothold in the world's fastest-growing fuel market to get a captive customer for the crude oil it produces.

Crude oil is the basic raw material for the manufacturing of petrochemicals.

Aramco and ADNOC will together hold 50 per cent stake in the 60 million tonnes per annum (MTPA) refinery and adjacent 18 MTPA petrochemical complex planned to be built at Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra by 2025.

The two will supply half of the crude oil required for processing at the refinery.

Like other major producers, the two are looking to lock in customers in the world's third-largest oil consumer through the investment. Kuwait is also looking to invest in projects in return for getting an assured offtake of their crude oil.

Saudi Aramco is also keen on retailing fuel in India. A refinery in India can also be a base for it to export fuel to deficit countries in Europe and the Americas.

India has a refining capacity of 247.6 million tonnes, which exceeded the demand of 206.2 million tonnes.‎ 

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