Billionaire Ambani Said to Weigh Sale of U.S. Shale Holdings

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Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries Ltd. is weighing a sale of its U.S. shale gas investments, people with knowledge of the matter said.

The Mumbai-based company may sell the holdings as part of a strategic review of its assets, as it believes their worth isn’t fully reflected in its market value, one of the people said, asking not to be named as the details are private. It has invested more than $8 billion in its unconventional gas joint ventures through the end of March, according to its annual earnings report.

Reliance, the operator of the world’s biggest oil-refinery complex, said July 24 that earnings from its shale assets fell in the latest quarter as natural gas prices slumped. Hydraulic fracturing has opened up reserves from Texas to North Dakota, causing prices to fall 54 percent from the five-year high reached in 2014.

“If you are not a big player in upstream, then it makes sense for you to divest from those resources,” Abhishek Kumar, a London-based senior analyst at Interfax Energy’s Global Gas Analytics, said by phone. “From the longer-term perspective, it’s possible that Reliance expects prices of oil and natural gas liquids to remain low, which can be a reason for them to consider a sale of the shale assets.”

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Selling the shale assets would allow Reliance to put its capital to more productive uses, given the gas market may not improve for some years, according to one of the people. It hasn’t made a final decision to sell, and Reliance isn’t willing to part with the assets at a depressed price, another person said.

BHP Billiton Ltd. wrote down an additional $2.8 billion on its shale assets this month, joining impairments by explorers Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Statoil ASA and Total SA. Tushar Pania, a spokesman for Reliance, didn’t reply to an e-mail seeking comment.

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“They may be looking at the larger interest of getting the benefit out of the investments that they have made,” Deven Choksey, managing director at Mumbai-based brokerage K.R. Choksey Shares & Securities Pvt, said by phone. “If they get a good value, then it’s fine to get out.”

Reliance, which has a market value of $51 billion, owns 45 percent of a project controlled by Pioneer Natural Resources Co. in south Texas’s Eagle Ford formation. It also has a 40 percent interest in a Chevron Corp. venture in the Marcellus shale deposit in Pennsylvania, as well as 60 percent of a project in the same area jointly owned with Carrizo Oil & Gas Inc.

The Indian company and partner Pioneer Natural Resources this month sold a Texas pipeline and processing company to Enterprise Products Partners LP for $2.15 billion.

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