Sasol to sell Lake Charles stake for R33.38bn

A logo sits on display outside the Sasol Ltd. headquarters in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017. Sasol, the worlds biggest producer of liquid fuel from coal, projects an internal rate of return of 7 percent to 8 percent at Lake Charles, which will convert ethane into plastics and other products. Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

South African petrochemicals firm Sasol said on Friday chemical company LyondellBasell Industries had agreed to acquire a 50% stake in its Lake Charles Chemical Project (LCCP) Base Chemicals Business for R33.38 billion ($2 billion).

The world’s top manufacturer of motor fuel from coal has been battling high debt and lower oil and chemicals prices, prompting it to search for a partner at its US Base Chemicals Business and issue up to $2 billion of shares.

The agreement will see a subsidiary of LyondellBasell form a 50/50 joint venture at the LCCP Base Chemicals Business and a portion of the Lake Charles property.

“The transaction will represent a significant step towards achieving Sasol’s strategic and financial objectives by materially reducing net debt, and catalysing a rapid shift towards the future Sasol strategy,” the company said.

The company’s total debt stood at R189.7 billion ($11.35 billion) for the year to June 30, exacerbated by delays and cost overruns at LCCP, prompting the resignations of its joint chief executives to restore shareholder confidence.

Sasol said net debt before lease liabilities would reduce from $10 billion to around $8 billion.

The LCCP Base Chemicals Business, which produces polyethylene and ethylene products, consists of the ethane cracker, a low density polyethylene plant and a linear low density polyethylene plant.

The value of the assets was $3.9 billion and recorded a loss of $2.3 billion for the year ended June 30, Sasol said.

The Johannesburg listed firm said it would retain ownership of the US Performance Chemicals Business, the legacy base chemicals assets at Lake Charles, and the remainder of the Lake Charles property.

Sasol said it expects the transaction, which is subject shareholder approval, to be completed before the end of the year.