Saudi Aramco eyes joint venture deal in India by next year: CEO

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State-owned oil giant Saudi Aramco is in talks with several Indian refineries and expects to reach a joint venture agreement next year, the company’s chief executive told Reuters on Sunday.

Aramco, like other major oil producers, wants to take advantage of growing opportunities for demand growth and invest in the world’s third largest consumer.

“We hope to land in a joint venture at some point,” Aramco CEO Amin Nasser told the India Energy Forum conducted by Cera Week in New Delhi.

When asked if an agreement could be finalized next year, he said: “We hope so, we are in serious discussions.”

Aramco wants to buy a stake in the 1.2 million bpd refinery off the west coast of India, India’s oil minister said in June.

The world’s largest oil producer is investing in overseas refineries to help block demand for its crude oil and expand its market share ahead of its initial public offering next year.

Aramco plans to float up to 5 percent of its shares in 2018 in what could be the world’s largest IPO, raising as much as $ 100 billion.

Nasser said Aramco is interested in investing in the Indian sector in the refining, petrochemical and fuel industry, including lubricants.

Saudi Arabia is competing with Iraq to be India’s top oil supplier, with Iraq moving it for a fifth consecutive month in August, according to Reuters data.

Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia pledged billions of dollars in investment projects in Indonesia and Malaysia to secure long-term oil supply deals.

The International Energy Agency estimates that India’s refining capacity will delay fuel demand in the future, requiring investment in new plants.

Saudi Aramco launched a new office in New Delhi on Sunday, aiming to expand its presence in India.

India’s oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who opened the Aramco unit in India, said Aramco is interested in investing in refinery projects in India and “will soon come to India.”