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Petronas' vice-president of downstream marketing business and chairman of Petronas Lubricants International Syed Zainal Abidin Syed Mohamed Tahir
Petronas' vice-president of downstream marketing business and chairman of Petronas Lubricants International Syed Zainal Abidin Syed Mohamed Tahir

‘India, China will push Petronas Lubricants into the top-five league’

Petronas Lubricants International (PLI), the global lubricants manufacturing and marketing arm of Malaysia's national oil and gas major Petroliam Nasional Bhd, aims to be among the top five producers of lubricants globally

Petronas Lubricants International (PLI), the global lubricants manufacturing and marketing arm of Malaysia's national oil and gas major Petroliam Nasional Bhd, aims to be among the top five producers of lubricants globally. And this growth, the company says, will be led by its India and China operations.

In an exclusive interaction with Mint at the Electric Vehicle (EV) Fluids Symposium organized by PLI in Turin, Italy, Petronas' vice-president of downstream marketing business and chairman of Petronas Lubricants International Syed Zainal Abidin Syed Mohamed Tahir tells Kalpana Pathak that the India market is important for its downstream as well as renewable energy plans. Edited Excerpts:

Where does India figure in Petronas Lubricants International's plans?

We plan to be among the top five lubricant companies globally in the next four to five years and India will play a significant role in that. We have set up two lubricant-blending plants in China and one India. The India plant will be launched formally in the next two weeks. Currently, at around 1.2 billion litres, PLI is ranked ninth in the world in terms of lubricant volume sold. However, PLI’s revenue growth was faster at 3% year-on-year in 2018 compared with the industry average of 1-2%. Earlier, we were not pushing our expansion very hard in India but now that we have our lubricant blending plant in Patalganga in Maharashtra, we are in a position to scale up our operations in India. We want Petronas Lubricants to be the partner of choice for the industry.

Given the global positioning you are targetting, would you also be looking at inorganic ways to grow?

Yes. We are also looking at potential merger and acquisition to strengthen our position. PLI was established in 2007 following the acquisition of FL Selenia SpA by Petronas, producing a range of lubricants for automotive, industrial and agricultural sectors. Since then we have come a long way and have pledged to double our investments and dedicate 75% of our research and technology (R&T) expenditure in projects that contribute to reducing CO2 emissions.

You launched fluids for EVs this year. But India is a nascent market for EVs. How do you see yourself growing in this segment?

PLI's lubricant facility in Patalganga, Maharashtra will help us expand in India. We are in talks with the original equipment manufacturers in India including Tata Motors, Mahindra and Mahindra, Sonalika Group, Hero Motors, Bajaj Auto et al to understand the market and expand our reach and partnership. Though India is a nascent market for EVs, we see a lot of promise and government support to the sector. We are serious about our commitment to encourage discussions on managing the climate challenge by harnessing EV technological developments. The EV Fluids Symposium we are holding is part of the group's initiative to work together with other industry players in the EV space. A key consideration is how can we bring down the cost for EV ownership by providing viable solutions.

Petronas recently took over Amplus Energy Solutions in India. Any more acquisitions on the anvil?

We are very much interested in India's renewable energy segment. Wind and solar, to be specific. We bought Amplus Energy Solutions for Rs2700 crore in April and it is one of India’s largest rooftop solar power producers, we would be using Amplus to expand our operations in India wherein, we would invest in assets with the technology coming from Amplus Energy. We are also assessing investments in wind power projects. The preference is to work with partners in wind power.

The Indian government is easing norms to make the petroleum sector attractive to international companies. Have you firmed up any plans?

India is a very important market for us. We have been bringing liquefied natural gas (LNG) to the Indian shores and we would now want to get into retailing of the same. We are in talks with a few companies but I am not at liberty to divulge their names. I don't think we are looking at fuel retailing currently as one needs to control the supply chain for that and we are not considering a presence in refining and petrochemicals segment at this moment. However, if there is an opportunity to collaborate with any of the local companies for fuel retailing options, we are open to that.

(The writer was in Turin, Italy at the invitation of Petronas Lubricants International)

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