Austria’s OMV AG is in talks to buy a $4.68 billion stake in Borealis AG, a potentially record-breaking acquisition that would shift the state-controlled energy company’s focus to petrochemicals.
Taking over the maker of polyolefins, base chemicals, and fertilizer would accelerate Chief Executive Office Rainer Seele’s move toward higher-value, lower-emission oil products. That rebalancing could be further amplified if OMV helps fund the purchase by selling some upstream oil assets or gas pipelines.
OMV may buy a 39% stake in the affiliate from Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Investment Co., it said in a statement late Friday. That would increase its holding in Borealis to 75%, while Mubadala would maintain a 25% stake. The emirate’s wealth fund also owns a quarter of OMV and is discussing joint investments in Abu Dhabi and Asia.
“The potential transaction would expand the value chain of OMV in the petrochemical sector and would allow OMV to fully consolidate the results,” the company said. The supervisory board has yet to discuss the transaction and will make a decision as soon as possible, it said. OMV’s next supervisory board meeting is taking place on Wednesday.
The move follows years of effort and investment by OMV to gain scale in exploration and production, refining and petrochemicals. While adding some oil and production assets in Asia and the Middle East in recent years, the company’s biggest potential investments are in Indonesia and Abu Dhabi, where the company plans to expand its refining and petrochemical capacities.
OMV has reached production of 500,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day and has cut production costs over recent years. The company’s production is still relatively low compared to the biggest companies in the sector, making it harder to lower costs further.
A deal with Russia’s Gazprom for OMV to acquire a stake in the Akhimov 4A/5A gas field hit a roadblock on Friday as falling gas prices prompted a restart of price talks and a loss of exclusivity, OMV said. The Russian deal is a cornerstone in Seele’s revamp of OMV’s upstream business, which sold expensive North Sea oil production.
Seele has highlighted his focus on petrochemicals in the past, especially in emerging markets, where consumer demand is growing for plastics uses from packaging to car parts. OMV even flagged it’s looking for acquisition targets, but the price tag for the Borealis stake would be above anything it’s bought before.
Borealis is the world’s sixth-biggest maker of polyolefins - plastics made from oil - and had net income of 872 million euros ($984 million) on 8.1 billion euros of revenue last year. Founded in Scandinavia, it’s now headquartered in Vienna with production facilities close to OMV’s Schwechat refinery, and has strong ties to Abu Dhabi.
OMV may sell upstream production assets or gas pipelines to help fund the deal, Austrian newspaper Der Standard reported earlier. OMV didn’t mention such plans in its statement.