Saudi Aramco exploring investment options in India: CEO Amin Nasser

New Delhi: State-owned energy firm Saudi Arabian Oil Co. (Saudi Aramco) is exploring opportunities for investments and joint ventures in India, including in the 60 million tonne oil refinery that Indian state-run firms are setting up, president and chief executive officer Amin Nasser said on Monday.

Nasser’s confirmation of intent to invest in India’s energy sector comes after Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a meeting of global energy industry executives earlier in the day in which oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan, Niti Aayog vice-chairman Rajiv Kumar, and other senior officials were present.

Nasser said at a conference in New Delhi that Saudi Aramco would hold discussions with Indian businesses for partnerships as demand for fuel was robust in India and its petrochemicals industry was booming. “India has all the signs of a prosperous economy. I am very optimistic about our investments in India because India is a very important market. Investing in India is a priority, not a choice any more,” said Nasser.

Later, at the sidelines of the conference, Nasser said Saudi Aramco’s investment interest included the 60 million tonnes oil refinery that Indian Oil Corp. Ltd, Bharat Petroleum Corp. Ltd and Hindustan Petroleum Corp. Ltd are setting up in Maharashtra, expected to be the world’s largest. The three Indian state-run firms already have signed an agreement to create a company that will execute the $35-40 billion project with a provision for inducting one or more strategic investors at a later stage.

Saudi Aramco’s commitment to invest in India’s energy sector comes in the wake of the complete removal of subsidy and administered pricing of auto fuel since October 2014, a reform accomplished with the help of prevailing subdued oil prices.

Oil minister Pradhan, who was also present at the conference, later said that India’s engagement with global energy companies has evolved from one of buyer-seller relationship to a strategic relationship over the last few years. “Saudi Aramco has categorically spelt out its intention to invest in India. It will help in job creation and in improving energy access,” said Pradhan.

An official statement issued after the prime minister’s meeting with industry executives said that Modi emphasized India’s need to develop energy infrastructure and to improve access to energy in eastern India. Modi said India’s efforts to be a cleaner, fuel-efficient economy has to benefit the poorest in the country as well, said the statement.

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