New Delhi: The government on Monday received 'multiple' bids for buying out its stake in India's second-biggest fuel retailer BPCL but billionaire Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Industries as well as supermajors Saudi Aramco, BP and Total did not make a bid. Tuhin Kanta Pandey, Secretary, Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM), which is handling the sale, tweeted that the transaction advisors for the sale of government's 52.98 per cent stake in Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd (BPCL) have reported receiving "multiple expressions of interest." "The transaction will move to the second stage after scrutiny by TA," he said.
TA stands for a transaction advisor. "Strategic disinvestment of BPCL progresses: Now moves to the second stage after multiple expressions of interest have been received," Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman also tweeted.
Neither of them however gave the number of bids received or the names of the bidders. Separately, four industry officials said Reliance Industries, which was considered a potential bidder as BPCL would have added 22 per cent fuel market share to its fledgling retail business and made it the nation's number one oil refiner, did not put in an expression of interest (EoI) at the close of the deadline on Monday.
Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Saudi Aramco), which had been keen to enter the world's fastest-growing fuel market, too did not put in an EoI. UK's BP plc and Total of France - who have plans to foray into the Indian fuel market - had previously ruled themselves out of the BPCL race as they did not want to add oil refining assets when the world was moving away from liquid fuels.
A clutch of private equity funds and/or pension funds are said to have put in an EoI. Russian energy giant Rosneft-led Nayara Energy, which operates a 20 million tonnes oil refinery at Vadinar in Gujarat and also has 5,822 petrol pumps, was considered a potential bidder for BPCL but reports last month had indicated it was no longer keen.
Abu Dhabi National Oil Co (ADNOC), which has ambitions for Indian market, too was considered a potential bidder but it wasn't immediately known if it put in an EoI. Mining billionaire Anil Agarwal is considered another potential bidder given his interest in the oil and gas business with the USD 8.67 billion acquisition of Cairn India.
At Friday's closing price of Rs 412.70 on BSE, the government's 52.98 per cent stake in BPCL is worth Rs 47,430 crore. Also, the acquirer would have to make an open offer for buying another 26 per cent stake from the public, which would cost Rs 23,276 crore. BPCL will give the buyer ownership to 15.33 per cent of India's oil refining capacity and 22 per cent of the fuel marketing share.
Privatisation of BPCL is essential for meeting the record Rs 2.1 lakh crore target the finance minister has set from disinvestment proceeds in the budget for 2020-21. BPCL operates four refineries in Mumbai (Maharashtra), Kochi (Kerala), Bina (Madhya Pradesh), and Numaligarh (Assam) with a combined capacity of 38.3 million tonne per annum, which is 15.3 per cent of India's total refining capacity of 249.8 million tonne.
While the Numaligarh refinery will be carved out of BPCL and sold to a PSU, the new buyer of the company will get 35.3 million tonne of refining capacity - 12 million tonne Mumbai unit, 15.5 million tonne Kochi refinery and 7.8 million tonne Bina unit. It also owns 17,138 petrol pumps, 6,151 LPG distributor agencies and 61 out of 256 aviation fuel stations in the country.
The bidding for BPCL will be a two-stage affair, with qualified bidders in the first EoI phase being asked to make a financial bid in the second round. Public sector undertakings (PSUs) are not eligible to participate in the privatisation.