India’s Reliance set to seal US$15 billion deal with Saudi Aramco

12 Aug 2019 / 21:23 H.

MUMBAI: India’s Reliance Industries is set to sell a 20% stake in its oil to chemicals business to Saudi Aramco, helping the Indian conglomerate to cut debt and giving Aramco better access to a fast growing market.

While terms of the deal are yet to be finalised, Reliance will get roughly US$15 billion (RM62.8 billion), including some debt adjustments for the 20% stake, P.M.S. Prasad, executive director of Reliance Industries, said today, adding the two companies aim to close the deal by March 2020.

The deal will see Reliance buy up to 500,000 barrels a day of crude oil from Aramco, Prasad told media after the company's annual general meeting, noting this would more than double the volumes that Reliance now purchases from Aramco.

The deal ties in with Aramco’s push to expand its refining and marketing footprint globally by signing new deals and boosting the capacity of its plants to secure new markets for its crude oil.

Aramco is boosting its refining and petrochemicals business, particularly in Asia, and sees growth in chemicals as central to its downstream expansion strategy to reduce risk as oil demand slows.

“This signifies perfect synergy between the world's largest oil producer and the world's largest integrated refinery and petrochemicals complex,” said Reliance chairman Mukesh Ambani, while announcing the deal at the AGM today.

Ambani, who is Asia's richest man, said the deal would be the biggest foreign investment in the history of Reliance and also one of the largest foreign investments ever in India.

Aramco declined to comment on the Reliance tie-up today, which coincided with its announcement of a 12% decline in half-year net profit.

Aramco reported a net profit of US$46.9 billion (RM196.3 billion) in the first half of 2019, down from US$53 billion for the same period last year. Despite the profit decline, Aramco remained the world’s most profitable company.

By comparison, Apple Inc, the world’s most profitable listed company, made US$31.5 billion, US rival Exxon Mobil Corp around US$5.5 billion and Royal Dutch Shell some US$8.8 billion.

“Despite lower oil prices during the first half of 2019, we continued to deliver solid earnings and strong free cash flow underpinned by our consistent operational performance, cost management and fiscal discipline,“ CEO Amin Nasser said in a statement in Riyadh today.

The company generated total half-year revenue, including other income related to sales, of US$163.88 billion, down from US$167.68 billion a year earlier. Free cash flow rose 6.7% to US$38 billion.

Aramco said the drop in earnings was mainly due to a 4% fall in the average realised price of crude oil to US$66 from US$69 per barrel and an increase in purchases, producing and manufacturing costs, and depreciation and amortisation costs.

The drop was partially offset by a decrease of US$2.62 billion in income taxes, the company said.

Aramco said today it will maintain its position as of the world’s biggest crude producer and would continue to expand its gas output and sustain its strong financial position.

“Our financials are strong and we will continue to invest for future growth,“ Nasser said.

Aramco also paid a dividend of US$46.4 billion to the government including a special dividend of US$20 billion, up from US$32 billion a year earlier.

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