Saudi Aramco in talks for stake in world’s no. 4 chemical firm

General view of Aramco tanks and oil pipe at Saudi Aramco’s Ras Tanura oil refinery and oil terminal in Saudi Arabia. (REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah/File)
Updated 19 July 2018
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Saudi Aramco in talks for stake in world’s no. 4 chemical firm

  • Aramco made the invitation for the SABIC deal to the banks last month
  • The oil giant is expanding its footprint globally by signing downstream deals and boosting the capacity of its plants

DUBAI: Saudi Aramco said on Thursday it is looking to buy a stake in Saudi petrochemical maker SABIC, a move that could boost the state oil giant’s market valuation ahead of a planned initial public offering.
Aramco said in a statement that it was in “very early-stage discussions” with the Kingdom’s Public Investment Fund to acquire the stake in SABIC via a private transaction. It has no plans to acquire any publicly held shares, it said.
In a separate statement, the PIF also said that talks about a sale were in early stages. “There is a possibility that no agreement will be reached in relation to this potential transaction,” it said.
Reuters reported on Wednesday that Saudi Aramco had invited banks to pitch for an advisory role on the potential acquisition of a strategic stake in Saudi Basic Industries Corp, citing two sources with direct knowledge of the matter.
Aramco wants to develop its downstream business as the government prepares to sell up to 5 percent of the world’s largest oil producer, possibly by next year. Boosting its petrochemicals portfolio further could help attract investors for the IPO.
Riyadh-listed SABIC, the world’s fourth-biggest petrochemicals company, is 70 percent owned by the Public Investment Fund (PIF), Saudi Arabia’s top sovereign wealth fund. It has a market capitalization of 385.2 billion Saudi riyals ($102.7 billion).
The Aramco IPO is the centerpiece of an ambitious plan championed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to diversify Saudi Arabia’s economy beyond oil.
Aramco made the invitation for the SABIC deal to the banks last month, said the sources, declining to be identified due to commercial sensitivities.
Aramco plans to boost investments in refining and petrochemicals to secure new markets for its crude, and sees growth in chemicals as central to its downstream strategy to lessen the risk of a slowdown in oil demand.
The oil giant is expanding its footprint globally by signing downstream deals and boosting the capacity of its plants.
Aramco’s push into chemicals also includes a mega project it is building at home with SABIC. The $20 billion project would build a complex that converts crude oil into chemicals directly, bypassing the refining stage.


Search engine Baidu becomes first China firm to join US AI ethics group

Updated 17 October 2018
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Search engine Baidu becomes first China firm to join US AI ethics group

  • The Partnership on AI (PAI), which counts Alphabet Inc’s Google, Apple Inc. and Facebook Inc. as members, is a body that develops ethical guidelines for AI research
  • Baidu’s inclusion in the group comes as Chinese and US companies are looking to ramp up cooperation on AI

BEIJING: Chinese search engine Baidu has become the first Chinese company to join an artificial intelligence (AI) ethics group led by top US tech firms, amid wider political clashes over AI competition between China and the US.
The Partnership on AI (PAI), which counts Alphabet Inc’s Google, Apple Inc. and Facebook Inc. as members, is a body that develops ethical guidelines for AI research, including ensuring research does not violate international conventions or human rights.
Last year China’s industry ministry named Baidu as one of four national AI champions, and the search firm has invested heavily in autonomous driving and deep learning in recent years.
“Baidu’s admission represents the beginning of PAI’s entrance into China. We will continue to add new members in China and around the world as we grow,” said PAI in a statement on Tuesday.

 

Baidu’s inclusion in the group comes as Chinese and US companies are looking to ramp up cooperation on AI, despite a looming political scuffle between the US and China over technology transfers.
Last year China set out a roadmap to become a world leader in AI by 2025, with plans to invest roughly $400 billion in the industry in the coming years.
The ambitions have rankled the US government, which has discussed plans to bolster security reviews of cutting-edge technology, including AI, over fears that China could access technology of strategic military importance.
China’s AI roadmap encourages technology sharing between private, public and military research groups.
Despite the clash, US companies have expanded their AI presence in China while Baidu and other Chinese firms have launched AI research labs in the US.
Last month China’s cyber ministry hosted Google, Amazon Inc. and Microsoft Corp. at its annual AI forum. All three companies have launched AI research labs in China over the past year, despite tightening censorship and data restrictions that limit the companies’ involvement in the market.
At the forum, top government officials stressed that China’s development of AI technology would be ethically conducted, adding that they have plans to retrain workers who lose their jobs to AI.

Decoder

China’s AI roadmap encourages technology sharing between private, public and military research groups.