HPCL sees better placed to buy overseas downstream assets after ONGC deal

Vastavam web: State refiner Hindustan Petroleum Corp Limited (HPCL) sees itself better placed to buy overseas downstream assets once it becomes part of the country’s top explorer Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC), its chairman M. K. Surana said.The Indian cabinet on Wednesday cleared state-run ONGC to acquire the government’s 51.1 percent in HPCL as New Delhi wants larger local oil firms to take on global rivals. HPCL has in the past tried to enter into fuel marketing in Fiji and Africa but none of the deals materialized.

India has a tiny presence in the overseas downstream sector. However, ONGC has acquired a number of foreign oil and gas exploration and production assets through its overseas investment arm ONGC Videsh Ltd. HPCL controls about 11 percent of India’s overall 4.7 million barrels per day (bpd) refining capacity, far lower than its retail sales.”We have a plate bigger than what we can chew, we are buying from other refiners,” Surana added.Last year HPCL sold about 35 million tonnes of refined products in the country through its vast retail network and had to buy about 10 million tonnes from other refiners including MRPL to meet the demand, he said.

“Standalone refinery does not make sense as their profits are determined by gross refining margins, inventory gain or losses…and the company is deprived of stable marketing margins,” Surana added. HPCL currently has a stake of about 17 percent stake in MRPL. The merger of MRPL and HPCL will depend on approval by the boards of the two companies. No timeline has been fixed for integration of the two companies, he added.