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Biggest Indian refiner hunts for oil assets as demand surges

Wednesday, January 11, 2017 - 13:57

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India's biggest fuel retailer is seeking to buy oil assets as demand surges in the world's fastest growing energy market.

[NEW DELHI] India's biggest fuel retailer is seeking to buy oil assets as demand surges in the world's fastest growing energy market.

State-run Indian Oil Corp wants to buy assets globally to ensure a tenth of its refining capacity is fed by crude that is either from its own oil field or from assets where it has a stake, Chairman B Ashok said in an interview on Monday. That goal will require the company to boost oil production 10-fold to about 210,000 barrels a day in the next eight years.  "There is a lot of potential production from our existing blocks," Mr Ashok said in his office in New Delhi, referring to the blocks it holds in Africa, Latin America and the US. "We are also looking at economics and seeing where the assets are available."

Indian Oil, the nation's biggest company by sales, and other state companies are increasing global acquisitions to secure energy supplies and meet demand that's expected to double by 2040. The biggest oil sector downturn in a generation opened a window for the energy hungry Indian companies to snap up assets as oilfield operators looked to sell assets or take partners to share expenses.

"This is a good time for Indian companies to buy oil assets overseas," said Abhishek Kumar, senior energy analyst at InterfaxEnergy's Global Gas Analytics in London. "There could be potential interest in the Middle East and Africa, and opportunities in Latin American nations such as Brazil and Mexico as they seek foreign partnerships to boost output." China had similarly stepped up overseas oil and gas investments after the 2008 oil price crash, snapping up assets for US$108 billion in the five years to 2013, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

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India's oil companies spent almost US$6 billion buying stakes in Russian oil fields last year. Indian Oil is diversifying its search to other geographies and is evaluating offers from global oil companies that are looking to sell some of their assets to generate cash, Ashok said. He did not give details.

"There are lot of opportunities possibly on offer in Africa, Middle-East and South East Asia," he said. "We are looking at these and if the prices are right, we will go for it." The company's shares, which have risen 55 per cent in the past year, added 0.4 per cent to 347.9 rupees at 10:19 a.m. in Mumbai.

Apart from oil production, the company also plans to increase refining capacity. It is building one of country's biggest refinery-cum-petrochemicals complex on the western coast along with two other state-run oil companies. It will own 50 per hahaha cent in the proposed project and is keen to bring in a foreign partner, Mr Ashok said.

Indian Oil plans to spend about US$26.2 billion through 2022 to expand it refining capacity to over 100 million tons and build new pipeline and distribution infrastructure. The company currently processes 80.7 million tons of crude a year from its nine plants and two owned by its unit Chennai Petroleum Corp.

India's oil demand is forecast to reach 10.3 million barrels per day by 2040, according to Paris-based International Energy Agency. The country's 23 refineries have a total capacity of about 230 million tons a year, while total fuel demand was 196.5 million tons during 2016, according to the oil ministry.

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