After striking the deal to sell its oil refinery to Russia’s Rosneft and partners for $12.9 billion, the debt-laden Essar Group has said it is not exiting the oil and gas business and the sale has helped to deleverage half of the Rs 88,000 crore debt at the holding company level. Essar signed agreements on Saturday to sell 49 per cent in the 20 million tons a year Vadinar refinery in Gujarat, the adjacent port and over 2,700 petrol pumps to world’s largest listed oil company.
Netherlands-based Trafigura Group Pte, one of the world’s biggest commodity trading companies, and Russian investment fund United Capital Partners split another 49 per cent equity. “We plan to utilise proceeds from the stake sale to deleverage the Group and pave the way for strategic consolidation and growth in other businesses. Deal will help Essar deleverage almost 50 per cent of its Rs 88,000 crore debt and substantially reduce interest costs,” Essar Group Director Prashant Ruia said in an interview here.
The remaining debt, he said, would continue in the assets and “normal operating company” debt. “We believe majority of the debt at the holding company level will be deleveraged.” “This is the largest debt reduction/deleveraging exercise in corporate India,” he said.
The transaction pegs Essar Oil’s enterprise value at Rs 72,800 crore (USD 10.9 billion) plus an additional Rs 13,000 crore (USD 2 billion) that will be paid for Vadinar Port that is captive to the refinery. “This makes it the largest inbound FDI into India,” he said.
Ruia said Essar was not exiting the oil and gas business and will continue to own and operate the 12 million tons refinery at Stanlow in UK which has a 12-13 per cent market share in Britain. Also, the exploration and production assets of Essar Oil, mainly the producing coal-bed methane (CBM) blocks in West Bengal will not be part of the deal and would continue with the Group, he said.
“Our philosophy as a group has been to make significant investments in infrastructure space, incubate it, nurture the business, help it build to world scale and monetise the value at the right time,” he said.