Reliance to look elsewhere if LB bid fails

Reliance Industries will immediately resume its hunt for large global acquisitions if LyondellBasell, the bankrupt global fuels, chemicals and plastics maker, next week spurns the Indian group’s $14.5bn takeover offer.

Rotterdam-based LyondellBasell, the world’s third-biggest independent chemicals producer, is expected to push ahead with a deal with its creditors, led by Apollo Management, at a hearing in New York on Monday rather than entertain a sweetened Reliance offer.

“Reliance has to diversify beyond India, where its growth prospects are muted,” said a person familiar with the Indian group.

Controlled by India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, Reliance Industries operates the world’s biggest refining complex in a single location at Jamnagar, in Gujarat state, with capacity of 1.24m barrels per day.

It controls India’s biggest gas field, which at peak output will produce the equivalent of 20 per cent of the country’s present demand for oil and gas.

Mr Ambani has stated his global ambitions for Reliance. It is India’s largest listed company with a market capitalisation of $72bn but only earns a fraction of its revenue offshore. At his annual address in November, he named “a global transformation initiative” as the first of a list of five priorities for the group in the coming year, saying this included “global growth by acquisitions”.

Ranked seventh in the Forbes global rich list with a $32bn fortune, Mr Ambani has been slower on the global acquisition trail than his peers, such as Ratan Tata, chairman of the Tata Group, who bought Anglo-Dutch steelmaker Corus in 2007 for £6.7bn ($10.1bn) in India’s biggest foreign takeover. While Tata has been criticised for buying at the top of the market, analysts say Reliance under Mr Ambani is unlikely to overpay for assets.

Since offering $12bn for LyondellBasell in November, Reliance has raised its bid twice, but analysts say that at $14.5bn, the offer is fully priced at 10 times forecast 2010 earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation.

In the meantime, it is expected to eye assets including the US refining business of Valero Energy.

Reliance is also looking at Value Creations (VCI), an Alberta-based group that owns one of the largest holdings of oil sands in the world, after it emerged that the Canadian company had been placed under court protection from creditors.



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