India on Thursday extended, for a second time, the deadline for bids in an attempt to sell Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL), a state-owned company that refines and markets oil. Official sources told Sputnik that they had opted to defer the sale due to a lack of interest from prospective buyers, and due to the current COVID-19 lockdown. The new deadline is 30 September as India attempts to off-load government stakes, with the exception of BPCL’s equity holding of 61.65 percent in Numaligarh Refinery in the northeastern state of Assam.
“In view of the further requests received from the Interested Bidders (IBs) and the prevailing situation arising out of COVID-19, last date and time for submission of EoIs (Expression of Interests) is extended up to 30th September, 2020,” said a notification by India’s federal department of disinvestment and public asset management on Wednesday (29 July). The same reason was cited for the earlier extension of the deadline.
BPCL, one of India's profit-making state-run companies, had posted 16 percent net profit (US $417.5 million) for the quarter ended 31 March 2019. It operates four refineries in Maharashtra, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Numaligarh in Assam, which process 38.3 million tonnes of crude per annum.
India’s government, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, had announced its plan to sell about 23 state-run companies. The government would only run companies in ‘strategic sectors’, the nation's Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Monday (27 July).
India had set a target of getting US $28.06 billion from privatisation during the fiscal year 2020-21. It expects to fetch over US $16 billion from the sale of state-run companies during fiscal year 2020-21 (April 2020 to March 2021), while another $ 12 billion is expected from stake sale of financial institutions.
Meanwhile, BPCL workers went on a day-long hunger strike on Thursday against the sale of the refinery.