Post LIC, India Weighs Selling Part Of BPCL Instead Of Full Stake: Report

India is considering selling up to a quarter of BPCL stake after failing to attract suitors for the whole firm, two officials said.

Post LIC, India Weighs Selling Part Of BPCL Instead Of Full Stake: Report

India weighs selling part of BPCL instead of full stake: Report

India is considering selling up to a quarter of state-run refiner Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd (BPCL) after failing to attract suitors for the whole firm, two officials said, as the government's divestment programme moves slower than expected.

New Delhi is considering inviting bids for a 20 per cent - 25 per cent stake in BPCL instead of an outright sale of its entire 52.98% holding, the two government officials, who declined to be named, told Reuters.

The officials said discussions about the plan were in the early stages.

Initially, the government had aimed to raise $8-$10 billion from selling its full stake in BPCL. Having drawn plans four years ago, it invited bids in 2020, hoping major players such as Russia's Rosneft might be interested.

But Rosneft and Saudi Aramco https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-india-bpcl-privatisation-exclusive-idUKKBN26K2KI did not bid on low oil prices at that time, and weak demand curbed their investment plans.

The government officials said even a part sale of BPCL was unlikely to be completed this fiscal year as the process would take over 12 months.

One of them said that inconsistent policies hit sale prospects on petrol and diesel prices.

"There were many issues, but most recently, petrol prices not being raised for four months between November and February were presumed due to elections by the government," the official said.

In February, India had elections in five states, including the bellwether Uttar Pradesh, and pump prices only started moving up from March 22. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party had won in four out of five states by that time.

Both officials said that the current discussion began after all bidders had withdrawn from the process last month.

They said that private equity firm Apollo Global Management and oil-to-metals conglomerate Vedanta Group were the final bidders.

The government, Vedanta and BPCL did not immediately reply to emails seeking comment. Apollo Group declined to comment.

BPCL's full stake sale backtracking is symptomatic of slow progress in the government's privatisation plans.

In 2020, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced plans to privatise most state-run companies, including banks, mining companies and insurers.

But little progress has been made, and both officials said the government had deferred plans to sell any other banks this fiscal year apart from IDBI Bank, which is majority-owned by Life Insurance Corp of India.

On Tuesday, LIC sank on its market debut after the government sold a 3.5 per cent stake, a third of the original target plan.

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