MUMBAI: Reliance Industries (RIL) and Saudi Aramco have decided to “re-evaluate” the latter’s proposed $15-billion investment in the Indian company’s oil-to-chemicals (O2C) business. Consequently, the country’s largest company by market value will pull out its application with the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) for segregating the O2C business from itself.
The re-evaluation follows RIL’s “evolving” energy business play, which includes its recent moves in solar power. It plans to make India a hub for low-cost solar manufacturing even as it targets to become net carbon zero by 2035. In a media release issued late Friday night, RIL said that, due to the evolving nature of its business portfolio, the company and Saudi Aramco have mutually determined that it would be “beneficial for both parties to re-evaluate the proposed investment in O2C business in light of the changed context”.
Two years ago, RIL announced that Saudi Aramco will acquire a 20% stake in RIL’s O2C unit for $15 billion. As part of the deal, Saudi Aramco would get one seat on the board of RIL and the right to appoint its executives in key managerial positions in the O2C unit. But the Saudi Aramco investment got delayed due to the pandemic and its impact on energy demand. The Indian company, however, recently appointed Saudi Aramco chairman and governor of the Kingdom’s wealth fund Yasir Al-Rumayyan as an independent director on its board.
The engagement over the last two years has given both RIL and Saudi Aramco a greater understanding of each other, providing a platform for broader areas of cooperation, the Indian company’s statement read.
Analysts interpreted that Saudi Aramco could look at investing in RIL’s larger portfolio, including O2C and renewable energy & new materials businesses. The Indian company’s facility in Jamnagar, Gujarat, which accounts for a major part of RIL’s O2C assets, is envisaged to be the centre for its renewable energy and new materials play.
Like RIL, Saudi Aramco too is pivoting towards green energy. In June this year, RIL announced that it will make a Rs 75,000-crore investment in clean energy over three years. Later, it bought Norway’s REC Solar and India’s Sterling and Wilson Solar. RIL’s Friday statement further said that it shall continue to be Saudi Aramco’s preferred partner for investments in India’s private sector. RIL and the Kingdom have an over two-decade-old relationship, with the former sourcing crude oil from Saudi Aramco for many years and the latter, through its wealth fund Public Investment Fund (PIF), investing in the Indian company’s retail, telecom (Jio) and fibre-optic units.