Saudi Aramco launched a new Indian venture near New Delhi, a government statement said on Sunday, as the global oil exporter looks to tap rising demand and invest in the world's third-biggest consumer.
India's Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who jointly inaugurated the local unit with Aramco Chief Executive Amin Nasser, said the move would help pave the way for "a strategic partnership in the hydrocarbon sector" between the two nations, Reuters reported.
Saudi Aramco through its subsidiary ARAMCO Asia India, or AAI, established its formal business presence in India last year, the statement said.
Aramco is investing in refineries in major markets to lock in customers ahead of its initial public offering next year, and the India business, on top of sales, will look for opportunities to take stakes in refining and petrochemical projects in the country.
Saudi Arabia is competing with Iraq to be India's top oil supplier, with Iraq displacing it for a fifth month in a row in August, data compiled by Reuters showed.
Nasser was in New Delhi to attend the IHS-CERA conference, which opened on Sunday, which will also be attended by OPEC Secretary-General Mohammed Barkindo.
Speaking on the occasion, Pradhan said India is one of the biggest markets for Saudi oil and LPG.
Saudi Aramco's Office in India will help strengthen the existing buyer-supplier relationship between the two sides to a strategic partnership in the hydrocarbon sector, he added. Saudi officials say plans to list Saudi Aramco in 2018 are on track. The plan to float around 5% of Aramco in an initial public offering is a centerpiece of Vision 2030, a wide-ranging reform plan to diversify the Saudi economy beyond oil, which is being championed by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.
“Work is ongoing to list Saudi Aramco in 2018,” Nasser said at an energy forum in Moscow.
“We will be looking at (evaluating) investors as we continue to make progress related to timing and location.”
Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih, who is also Aramco’s chairman, said on Thursday the IPO would happen in the second half of 2018, adding that the listing would be used as a “catalyst” for the opening up of the Saudi economy.