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Malaysia's Petronas says RAPID project on track for 2019 start-up

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KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 26 (Reuters) - Malaysia's state oil firm Petroliam Nasional Berhad said on Thursday its new $27 billion refining and petrochemical complex project in the southeast Asian country is on track for start-up in 2019.

Sources familiar with the matter told Reuters on Wednesday that Saudi Aramco had shelved its plans for a partnership with the company, known as Petronas, on the Refinery and Petrochemical Integrated Development (RAPID) project, raising questions about its future.

RAPID, located within the Pengerang Integrated Complex in the southern Malaysian state of Johor, is designed to have a 300,000-barrel-per-day oil refinery and a petrochemical complex with a production capacity of 7.7 million metric tonnes.

Petronas said in a statement late on Thursday the development had reached the 54 percent progress mark to date and was expected to generate positive returns for the company.

"Petronas would like clarify that its Pengerang Integrated Complex project will continue to be the focus of its downstream growth agenda in the coming years," the company said in a statement emailed to Reuters.

"Despite the current slowdown in the world economy and depressed oil prices, the... investment remains a priority for Petronas."

The statement made no reference to Aramco, Saudi Arabia's state-run oil and gas giant.

Aramco's move to suspend plans for the Malaysian venture comes at a time when Petronas is struggling with the slump in oil prices.

In early 2016 Petronas said it would cut spending by up to 50 billion ringgit ($11.29 billion) over the next four years. It has also slashed the dividend it pays to the Malaysian government. ($1 = 4.4270 ringgit) (Reporting by A. Ananthalakshmi; Editing by Greg Mahlich and Alex Richardson)