Saudi Aramco and Royal Dutch Shell announced Wednesday they had signed a non-binding letter of intent to divide the refining and marketing assets of their joint venture, Motiva Enterprises. The 50-50 joint venture has been in place since 2002, and owns three refineries in Louisiana and Texas, as well as sells petroleum products across the United States through over 8,200 outlets.
Saudi Arabian Oil Company, or Saudi Aramco as it is popularly known, is the world’s largest oil company and owns its Motiva share through its U.S. subsidiary, Saudi Refining Inc. SRI will retain the Motiva brand name, as well as the refinery in Port Arthur, Texas, which, with a capacity of 600,000 barrels a day, is the largest in the U.S.
SRI will also keep 26 distribution terminals and will “have an exclusive license to use the Shell brand for gasoline and diesel sales in Texas, the majority of the Mississippi Valley, the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic markets,” according to a statement on the Motiva website.
Shell owns its Motiva share through its U.S. downstream affiliate, Shell Oil Company, and after the split, the Anglo-Dutch oil giant will assume sole ownership of both the Louisiana refineries, in Norco and Convent, with capacities of 240,000 and 235,000 barrels a day and respectively.
Shell will also retain nine distribution terminals and Shell-branded retail outlets in Florida, Louisiana and the Northeastern region, the statement said.
The news comes as the Saudi government said in January it was considering selling shares in Saudi Aramco in a public offering. According to Bloomberg Intelligence, a public listing may value Aramco at as much as five times the valuation of Apple Inc., currently the world’s largest publicly traded company with a market cap of about $600 billion.
“The division of Motiva will also make it easier for Saudi Aramco to sell part of a wholly-owned downstream asset in any future public offering instead of going through the long legality and pricing process with an international joint venture partner,” Mohamed Ramady, a London-based independent analyst, told Bloomberg.
In the statement on Motiva’s website, Shell said the move was consistent with the company’s strategy to simplify and integrate its businesses. Shell will also work to combine the assets from Motiva with the rest of its North American facilities, it said.
A representative from Saudi Aramco said the “joint venture with Shell has served our downstream business objectives very well for many years. However, it is now time for the partners to pursue their independent downstream goals.”