Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 6 August 2020

Indian energy asset sale whets investor appetite

As many as 81 queries were sent by prospective bidders vying for Bharat Petroleum Corporation, according to sources

Bharat Petroleum refinery on the island of Vypin near Kochi, Kerala in southern India.  BPCL is India’s third-biggest refiner and second-largest fuel retailer. Alamy Stock Photo
Bharat Petroleum refinery on the island of Vypin near Kochi, Kerala in southern India.  BPCL is India’s third-biggest refiner and second-largest fuel retailer. Alamy Stock Photo

India’s biggest asset sale programme is drawing interest from global investors despite the volatility in the oil markets and devastating fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

As many as 81 queries were sent by prospective bidders vying for state-owned oil refiner-cum-fuel retailer Bharat Petroleum Corporation, according to officials with knowledge of the matter. While the questions from multiple international oil majors is a reflection of interest, it doesn’t mean they will translate into bids, they said, without disclosing how many companies have sought clarifications.

A government official had previously said that several top oil producers from the Middle East and Russia’s Rosneft have shown interest in buying BPCL, which is India’s third-biggest refiner and second-largest fuel retailer.

The Indian government is in the process of clarifying these queries through a corrigendum to the offer document, and will go ahead with the privatisation. The process can rake in a sizeable amount and support its coffers depleted by sluggish tax revenues and dole outs to shield the poor from the virus fallout.

BPCL is a high-quality asset and its value hasn’t eroded despite the fall in share price, the people said, asking not to be identified as the information is not public.

Spokespeople at the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas didn’t respond to queries seeking comment.

The government doesn’t plan to dilute the $10 billion net worth clause for bidders, showing the administration’s confidence in getting bigger players for the transaction. Only two Indian companies make the cut, of which only one is in the oil and gas sector, the people said, referring to Reliance Industries.

The last date for submitting initial bids for Indian government’s 52.98 per cent holding in BPCL is July 31.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is offering employees shares at a discounted price as an incentive for the privatisation, they said.

Updated: July 25, 2020 10:14 AM

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