Reliance close to $6 bn overseas buy: paper

Reliance close to $6 bn overseas buy: paper

Mumbai: Indian energy giant Reliance Industries is close to a nearly $6 billion overseas acquisition and the likely target is the assets of petrochemicals firm LyondellBasell, the Economic Times reported on Monday, citing an unidentified banker.

Luxembourg-based LyondellBasell filed for bankruptcy protection in January, unable to meet its debt obligations after demand dropped for petrochemicals products during the global economic downturn.

Reliance could buy the US and European assets of LyondellBasell, the paper said, citing an unidentified banker.

At 2:00pm, shares in Reliance were up 2.8% to Rs2,012, in a Mumbai market that was up 1.45%, having risen as much as 3.6% to their highest since 29 October.

“Reliance has an unleveraged balance sheet, and they have some money on them," Deepak Pareek, an oil and gas analyst at Angel Broking said.

“An acquisition will put it on a different orbit."

Last month, Maurice Bannayan, a senior vice president at Reliance, told Reuters the firm was negotiating to acquire refinery and petrochemical units in the United States and Europe and could finalise a deal by end-2009.

In September, Reliance Industries raised about $660 million in a share sale that analysts said was likely to help the country’s largest listed firm make acquisitions.

A company official, who declined to be named because he was not authorised to speak to the media, said a team of company officials was currently in the United States, but declined to elaborate on what it was doing there.

Angel’s Pareek said while the outlook for the petrochemicals sector was muted, an acquisition could bear fruit over the longer term if Reliance managed to secure low valuations.

Reliance would likely make an announcement before its annual shareholders meeting on 17 November, the Economic Times said, citing a source close to the development.

A Reliance spokesman declined to comment on the newspaper report, but said the company was always considering options for acquisitions in India and abroad.

“The difficult operating environment of the past year has made available several interesting opportunities," Reliance said in an e-mail.

LyondellBasell could not be immediately reached for comment.

In September, Indian television reported, citing sources, that Reliance could make a cash payment of $3.25 billion to Lyondell’s vendors to buy some or all of its assets.

Refining margins hit

Analysts said Reliance might consider buying assets in the petrochemicals sector, and look for organic growth in its oil and gas exploration and production businesses.

A sluggish global economy has slashed oil refining margins of Reliance Industries, leading to a fourth straight fall in quarterly profit and adding to concerns for investors already unnerved by a gas-pricing dispute.

Reliance Industries, controlled by billionaire Mukesh Ambani, is embroiled in a high-profile legal battle over a deal to sell gas to Reliance Natural Resources, led by Ambani’s estranged younger brother Anil, at below the price set by the government.

LyondellBasell is owned by investor Len Blavatnik through New York-based Access Industries.

LyondellBasell had taken on billions of dollars of debt obligations when Access Industries led a 2007 buyout. An official committee of unsecured creditors has argued that the merger set the company up to fail.