As Rupee plumbs new lows, RBI allows oil companies to take ECBs under automatic route

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Updated: October 3, 2018 11:04:05 PM

All the state-run oil marketing companies (OMCs) will now be able to raise external commercial borrowings (ECBs) for working capital purposes with a minimum average maturity of three to five years from all recognised lenders under "the automatic route"

Rupee value, Rupee rates, Rupee vs dollar, RBI, ECBs, oil companiesUnder the liberalised norms, with immediate effect, allow individual state-run refiners to borrow up to USD 750 million or equivalent, while for the system, it is capped at USD 10 billion.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Wednesday relaxed policy on borrowing from overseas to allow state-owned fuel retailers to raise up to USD 10 billion external debt for working capital needs. Till now oil marketing companies were not allowed to raise external commercial borrowing (ECB) for working capital needs on a long-term basis. They could raise a maximum of one-year overseas loan by way of buyers credit, repay it within 12 months and raise it again thereafter.

Now, the RBI has allowed them to raise ECB of minimum maturity of 3 or 5 years. The move comes at a time when international oil prices have hit four-year high of near USD 85 per barrel and the rupee plummeted to close at an all-time low of Rs 73.34 to a US dollar.

Indian Oil Corp (IOC), Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd (HPCL) will be allowed to raise overseas funds with a minimum average maturity period of 3 or 5 years under the automatic route. The RBI also lifted the individual borrowing limit set at USD 750 million under the external commercial borrowing (ECB) framework.

With oil prices climbing to four-year high and the rupee plunging to new lows, imports have come costlier. Oil companies now need a higher working capacity to meet their monthly import requirements. India is 81 per cent dependent on imports to meet its oil needs.

“Public Sector Oil Marketing Companies will raise USD 10 billion for 3-5 year for financing their permanent working capital. RBI has also granted necessary exemptions under the ECB policy,” Economic Affairs Secretary Subhash Chandra Garg said in a tweet.

Separately, the RBI said the overall ceiling for such external commercial borrowings will be USD 10 billion equivalent and the said facility will come into effect from the date of the circular. “It has been decided, in consultation with the Government of India, to liberalise the said provision and permit public sector Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) to raise ECB for working capital purposes with a minimum average maturity period of 3/5 years from all recognized lenders under the automatic route,” the circular said.

Commenting on the decision, IOC Director (Finance) A K Sharma said it is a welcome move as it would provide stability to working capital needs of oil companies. “It is a welcome step.” In a statement, IOC said easing of ECB provisions for working capital is a welcome move by the RBI, which will benefit the OMCs in the long run.

“This will help in broadening the basket of borrowing sources for working capital,” it said. “In a rising working capital scenario, a long-term loan to meet the working capital would provide the much needed stability for fund management .” “Doing away with the mandatory hedging is another boost since the loans would be cheaper and also it gives flexibility to hedge prudently based on market conditions,” IOC said. “The flexibility of fixing tenor of the loans will also remove the concern and pressures of bunching of repayments.?”

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