Engineering News

Chevron says evaluating options on Reliance Petroleum
Mon Nov 26, 2007 7:34am EST

MUMBAI, Nov 26 (Reuters) - Chevron Corp, the No. 2 U.S. oil firm, said on Monday it was evaluating its options for its stake in India's Reliance Petroleum, in which majority owner Reliance Industries sold 4 percent last week.

Chevron owns 5 percent in Reliance Petroleum and has an option to raise its holding to 29 percent.

Analysts say the U.S. major may review its plans for the option after Reliance Industries sold 4 percent for $1.0 billion last week, lowering its stake to 71 percent.

"Chevron continues to evaluate our options with our ownership in Reliance Petroleum. We will provide specific project updates when definitive decisions are made," a Chevron spokeswoman for its Asian operations said in an e-mailed response to Reuters.

Reliance Petroleum is building a 580,000 barrels per day (bpd) refinery in the western state of Gujarat, adjacent to its parent Reliance Industries' existing 660,000 bpd refinery.

Shares in Reliance Petroleum, valued at about $24 billion, are now trading at more than 200 rupees, or about 3.5 times their initial public offer in April 2006 at 60 rupees.

Chevron had bought its 5 percent holding at the IPO price for $300 million.

"We believe that Reliance Petroleum's rich valuation and the fact that Reliance sold a 4 percent stake to the market, may imply a possible future Chevron exit unless there is meaningful pullback in the market," Goldman Sachs said in a note on Monday. 

Shares in Reliance Petroleum ended down fell 2.6 percent at 204.05 rupees in a Mumbai market that rose 2 percent.

The stock had hit a lifehigh of 295 rupees on Nov. 1, on speculation Chevron may increase its stake in the company, but the rise in prices was a deterrent for the U.S. firm to raise its stake, analysts said.

"We note that increasing its stake to 29 percent... would mean a significant investment of more than $5.5 billion for Chevron," Goldman Sachs said.

If Chevron exercises its option to raise its holding at current prices, it would effectively almost fully finance the $6 billion refinery, brokerage Kotak Securities said in a note.

Merrill Lynch said the 4 percent stake sold by Reliance Industries last week could mean it may reduce its holding in the subsidiary to below 51 percent.

"The other question is whether Reliance Industries is planning a project or acquisition, for which it plans to use the $1 billion raised," Merrill said in a client note.

Chevron and Reliance Industries are also yet to finalise an initial agreement signed in April 2006 for crude supplies at the new refinery and marketing its products.

Source: Reuters

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