THE New Forest billionaire at the head of a multinational chemicals company has announced it is buying part of BP.

Ineos, whose registered office is at Lyndhurst, has struck a four billion US dollar (£4billion) deal to buy BP’s petrochemicals wing.

Founder Sir Jim Ratcliffe – who has a home at Beaulieu said: “We are delighted to acquire these top-class businesses from BP, extending the Ineos position in global petrochemicals and providing great scope for expansion and integration with our existing business.”

“This acquisition is a logical development of our existing petrochemicals business extending our interest in acetyls and adding a world leading aromatics business supporting the global polyester industry.”

Ineos will pay BP in six instalments until June next year for its petrochemicals business, which makes a key component in polyester.

The business employs around 1,700 staff, spread mainly across the Asia, the US, Belgium and a plant in Hull. The jobs are expected to transfer to Ineos.

It means that a changing BP has met its promise to sell off 15bn dollars (£12bn) of assets a year earlier than initially promised.

The petrochemicals business fell out of favour with bosses who thought it would be too costly to grow on its own.

BP chief executive Bernard Looney said: “Strategically, the overlap with the rest of BP is limited and it would take considerable capital for us to grow these businesses.

“As we work to build a more focused, more integrated BP, we have other opportunities that are more aligned with our future direction.

“Today’s agreement is another deliberate step in building a BP that can compete and succeed through the energy transition.”

Sir Jim Ratcliffe has previously been named the UK’s richest person by the Sunday Times Rich List, although this year he was at number five.

The authors estimated his wealth had dropped by £6bn to £12.15bn because of the coronavirus.

Ineos is one of the UK’s largest privately owned companies, with around 22,000 staff at 183 plants in 26 nations.

In recent times, the Ineos name has become well-known in sport, spending around £400m on sporting enterprises according to the Financial Times.

It owns the UK cycling squad formerly called Team Sky and France’s OGC Nice football team, funds Ben Ainslie’s America’s Cup team, sponsors the Mercedes Formula One team.