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Government seeks to curb Reliance Industries’ plan to sell stake to Saudi Aramco

Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) may have to disclose its assets before it can freeze plans to sell 20% stake in its refining and petrochemicals business to Saudi Aramco, reported The Times of India today.

According to the report, the Delhi High Court on Friday asked RIL and British Gas to disclose their assets after the Centre sought to restrain them from disposing of the same.

“In an application filed in September, the government had sought curbs citing the failure of the two companies to honour their payment under a $4.5 billion international arbitral award in the Panna-Mukta and Tapti production sharing contracts,” The Times of India reported.

Calls to the RIL spokesperson went unanswered till the time of the story going to press.

RIL chairman Mukesh Ambani had on August 12 announced the company’s plans to sell 20% stake in its refining and petrochemicals business for $15 billion to Saudi Aramco. Saudi Aramco, the most profitable company in the world, controls the world’s second-largest proven crude reserves at more than 270 billion barrels, and the partnership will go a long way in insulating RIL from any future oil shocks and volatility in crude prices.

The deal, which values the oil-to-chemicals (O2C) business at $75 billion, is part of a plan to make RIL a zero-debt company in the next 18 months, Ambani had said in a speech at the annual meeting.

Ambani is aiming to slash RIL’s ballooning debt after spending as much as $50 billion to propel its telecom business to the top position in India within three years of starting operations, surpassing Bharti Airtel Ltd and Vodafone Idea Ltd.

According to the government, RIL and its partner are required to pay $4.5 billion with interest. In the Delhi High Court, the government said it was forced to file for the execution of the award as RIL and partner haven’t cleared their dues.

The government, since 2010, has been fighting an arbitration with RIL and its partner, alleging that the companies appropriated huge sums of money in violation of the production sharing contract in the PMT oil and gas fields.

Source: Livemint