Oil Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Thursday indicated that the much-delayed privatisation of oil major BPCL may not happen in the near future, saying there is “no proposal whatsoever” on his table for now.
As part of its asset monetisation plan, the government had in November 2019 put Bharat Petroleum Corporation (BPCL) on the block and said it would completely sell its 52.98 per cent stake in the country’s second largest state-run oil refiner and marketer. Though it had received three tentative bids, it got only one financial bid from Vedanta group, forcing it in May 2022 to shelve the plan pending a “comprehensive review”.
“How can a sale process under competitive bidding go ahead when there is only one bidder?”, the minister quipped when asked whether his ministry pursuing BPCL divestment again.
“You know it’s not the administrative ministry alone that carries out divestment plans now, but the DIPAM (Department of Investment and Public Asset Management) does it. But as far as I being the line minister is concerned, there is no proposal whatsoever on the BPCL sale as of now on my table,” Puri told reporters here.
The minister was in Mumbai to inaugurate the 25th Energy Technology Meet organised by his ministry.
The government launched the ambitious privatisation process of BPCL in November 2019. In March 2020, right before the pandemic hit the whole world, it had invited expression of interest (EoI). In November of the same year, three companies submitted EOIs — Anil Agarwal’s Vedanta, which formed a special purpose vehicle with its London-based parent Vedanta Resources, Apollo Management and Think Gas, promoted by ISquared Capital.
In April 2021, the government allowed bidders to access data rooms of the company and in July it hiked the foreign direct investment limit to woo overseas companies. It formally called off the plan in May 2022.
Shelving the sale plan, DIPAM Secretary Tuhin Kanta Pandey had said in a statement in May that based on the decision of the Alternative Mechanism on strategic disinvestment — which comprises Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Roads and Highways minister Nitin Gadkari, and the line minister (oil minister in this case) — the privatisation process of BPCL stands cancelled.
The statement had also added that a decision on its re-initiation will be taken in due course following a comprehensive review.
The BPCL sale was part of the Rs 1.75 lakh crore disinvestment target for FY22 but the pandemic slowed down the process and the sale got pushed into FY23 before being put off.
Addressing the energy technology summit, Puri said the focus is towards net zero emission by 2047 when the nation celebrates the centenary of Independence and expressed the hope that the country will achieve the same before the deadline, pointing to the achievement of 10 per cent ethanol blending six months before the deadline in June 2022 itself.
The government has set a target of blending 20 per cent ethanol in petrol by 2025 and 5 per cent biodiesel in diesel by 2030, he added.