Aramco Enters South American Retail Fuel Market

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Saudi Aramco has entered the South American retail fuel and lubricants market for the first time, acquiring a company in Chile that provides it with a platform for future expansion in the region.

The Saudi oil giant said it had agreed to acquire 100% of Esmax Distribucion from Southern Cross Group, a Latin America-focused private equity company. It did not disclose the purchase price.

The deal reflects Aramco's strategy of locking in demand for its oil in markets where sales of refined products are expected to keep growing, even as they contract in some of the world's more affluent countries.

"It creates a platform to launch the Aramco brand both in Chile and South America more broadly, unlocking significant potential to capitalize on new markets for our products," Mohammed al-Qahtani, Aramco’s downstream president, said in a statement released by Aramco.

Esmax is a diversified retailer of fuels and lubricants with a wide presence in Chile, including retail fuel stations, airport fuel operations, fuel distribution terminals and a lubricants blending plant.

Aramco’s planned acquisition of Esmax would be its first downstream retail investment in South America.

Downstream Value Chain

The move is driven by recognition of the "potential and attractiveness of these markets, while advancing Aramco’s strategy of strengthening its downstream value chain," the company said.

“Demand for oil in the transport sector is expected to last longer in markets like Asia, Africa or South America and it's forward thinking of Aramco to enter these markets, because the goal is to grow its downstream sector to match its upstream," said a Gulf-based analyst.

The Esmax deal will secure additional sales outlets for Aramco's refined products and help expand its retail business internationally.

The acquisition will also create new sales opportunities for Valvoline branded lubricants, following Aramco’s acquisition of Valvoline's manufacturing and distribution business earlier this year.

The deal with Valvoline did not include the US company's retail business.

Up to now, Aramco's retail fuel operations have been limited to Saudi Arabia, where it formed a joint venture with TotalEnergies in 2019 to operate a network of 270 service stations.

Global Downstream Push

Earlier this year Aramco said it would invest billions of dollars to expand its downstream footprint in China — a move that furthered Aramco's goal of locking in demand for its crude while also aligning with Saudi Arabia's policy of strengthening ties with Beijing.

Aramco said it would take a 30% stake in a new refinery with a capacity of 300,000 barrels per day to be built in China and take a 10% stake in Rongsheng Petrochemical, which has a 51% stake in an 800,000 b/d refinery.

And late last year Aramco concluded a deal to acquire a 30% stake in a refinery in Poland, following that country's decision to stop importing Russian crude oil.

Like the deals in China. the transaction with Polish refiner Orlen included a substantial crude oil supply component.

M&A, Oil Products, Retail Marketing
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