* May also sell some assets, Specialties most likely area (Adds details, context)
RIYADH, April 19 (Reuters) - Saudi Basic Industries Corp (SABIC) is seeking to strengthen its fertiliser business with acquisitions and could also announce deals for chemical and polymer businesses by the end of the third quarter, its acting chief executive told Reuters on Tuesday.
The company is also evaluating whether to sell some of its assets in its Specialties plastics business, with a decision expected by the end of the year, Yousef Abdullah al-Benyan said in an interview on the sidelines of a news conference.
One of the world’s largest petrochemicals firms, SABIC has been suffering like many in its industry with the impact of falling oil prices, which has a direct correlation with petrochemical prices.
SABIC reported a seventh-straight decline in quarterly profit on Monday, to 3.41 billion riyals ($909 million).
A deal to sell its 50 percent holding in chemical fertiliser producer Ibn Al-Bayttar to affiliate Saudi Arabia Fertilizers Co. is currently being evaluated by SAFCO and other moves are in the pipeline.
“This is part of our efforts to consolidate operations, bring more efficiency and reduce cost without impacting our liability or our quality of delivery,” Benyan said.
For fertilisers, Benyan said SABIC wanted to strengthen both SAFCO’s and its own business, with the latter looking for opportunities outside of the kingdom to invest in ammonia, urea and specialty urea products.
SABIC has also talked previously about expanding its presence in the United States and Asia and Benyan said on Tuesday this was still very much in focus, with something expected by the end of the third quarter.
“It is all about chemicals and polymers, our core business products that we need to strengthen, but the second part is also technology,” he said when asked about potential purchases.
In terms of divestments, Benyan said it was looking at selling assets outside of the kingdom, with the Specialties business the most likely area affected.
It was still evaluating its options but current thinking was towards selling assets in Asia and the United States: “I think by the end of this year, we should really know which one to let go,” Benyan said.
SABIC said in October it was breaking up its Sabic Innovative Plastics division, moving commodity products to its Chemicals and Polymers business and the rest of the division would be placed in a new Specialties unit. Sabic IP was the former plastics business of General Electric, which SABIC bought in 2007 for $11.6 billion. ($1 = 3.7502 riyals) (Writing by David French; Editing by Andrew Torchia, Greg Mahlich)
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