IBP merger with IOC complete

Kolkata, May 2 | Updated: May 3 2007, 05:30am hrs
The rise of Buddha Purnima's full moon also marked the end of India's oldest standalone oil marketing company, IBP & Co, as a separate entity.

Operating out of Kolkata since 1942, when it was known as Indo Burma Petroleum, IBP has finally been merged with Indian Oil Corp, the country's largest petroleum refining and marketing company. IOC, which had earlier acquired IBP and then merged it, said the ministry of company affairs has approved the merger.

Following the final approval, which has been pending for long, IBP & Co will cease to exist from Wednesday, Indian Oil said in a statement.

In 1909 a British conglomerate, Steel Brothers & Co, set up Indo Burma Petroleum Company Ltd at Burma, now Myanmar, which was a part of undivided British India, to set up an oil refinery in Rangoon (Yangon). But, in 1942, the developments of World War II compelled IBP to destroy its own oilfields and refinery.

In India, Indo Burma joined hands with the then Indian Oil Company and started petroleum marketing at Mumbai and Kolkata. Though it was initially taken over by IOC in 1970, it was again separated and set up as a public sector company in 1974 under the ministry of petroleum and natural gas.

By this time all the foreign private oil businesses had been nationalised and made public sector companies. The Indo Burma Petroleum Company Ltd changed its name to IBP Co. Ltd in 1983.

Predominantly an oil company, IBP diversified its activities into engineering and chemicals. The venture to make explosives by the chemical division was based on a suggestion from the government when the country faced acute shortage of explosives for mining industry following an accident and strikes at the only major supplier in India in the Sixties.

Then, in 2002, the central government divested its holding in IBP under the disinvestment plan. IOC then decided to merge the company with itself.

With the announcement, there is a perceptible anxiety among the staff of IBP about their future: Whether big brother IOC would retain all of them. However, spokesperson of both IOC and IBP shrugged off any such probabilities.

"The management has been telling us that there wouldn't be any lay off of those who have been working with IBP," an IBP officer, who becomes an employee of IOC now, said on condition of anonymity.

The fate of the 10-storey headquarters of IBP at Nirmal Chandra Street opposite Hind Cinema, also remains uncertain.

"Those IBP employees stationed at the head office would continue to work from there. There is no proposal as of now to relocate them," an IOC spokesperson said.

However, some IOC officials said the company is contemplating reorganising its marketing set up which could lead to a bifurcation of responsibilities in terms of districts. This could result in IOC creating a new marketing office at Haldia with command over Howrah, Hoogly, East and West Midnapore while districts like Kolkata, Nadia and South and North 24 parganas being taken care off from another office in Kolkata.

The IBP head office could well reinvent itself as IOC's new marketing command centre, officials said.