BPCL disinvestment: Next significant capex after new investor steps in

As the central government looks to exit Bharat Petroleum Corporation (BPCL), a new investor will step in time for the company’s next significant capital expenditure (capex). Executives though add the timing is incidental and not planned. 

For the current financial year, BPCL’s planned capex is expected to cross Rs 7,900 crore. In the next financial year, the oil-marketing company looks to spend another Rs 12,000 crore. A significantly higher expenditure is expected in 2021-22 (FY22), by when BPCL will have a new investor in place. At the core of this FY22 capex plans is BPCL’s planned expenditure at Rasayani in Maharashtra — a location currently facing land acquisition hurdles. 

“A major part of the capex had to happen in Rasayani. We earlier took over a major part of the land at Rasayani and are still in the process of getting the incumbent free possession there. Unless that happens, we are not willing to invest further there. We are strategically slowing down to not succumb to local resistance and politicians,” said a person with direct knowledge of the company’s plans.

According to BPCL’s latest investment presentation, the company is planning marketing and other infrastructure facilities at this location. The company also looks to shift some of its facilities from Mumbai to the new location. BPCL is in the process of buying land from Hindustan Organic Chemicals to set up the planned facilities. 

“The planned investments are in the range of Rs 12,000 and Rs 13,000 crore, which will add up to the capex for FY22, taking it to a higher Rs 18,000 crore,” the person added. He, however, clarified it is too early to comment on FY22’s exact capex, as a new investor would have stepped in by then. 

“We are not abandoning the project, but going somewhat slow. Incidentally, it may mean the major capex starts getting incurred by the time a new investor is in place,” the executive added. He clarified there was currently no embargo from the government on capex. 

On November 20, the Centre decided to go for the sale of its entire 53.29-per cent stake and transfer of management control to a strategic buyer. People in the know add the sale is likely to attract attention from a host of foreign bidders, mostly oil producers aiming to secure a market for their produce in India. 

The go-slow approach may also leave BPCL’s next offshore fundraising exercise to its new investor. “The company has not gone for global fundraising (bonds and external commercial borrowings) in 2019-20 and there are no plans for 2020-21 either,” said the person quoted earlier, adding FY22’s higher capex may need global fundraising. 

According to BPCL’s latest investor presentation, the company’s other upcoming project includes capacity expansion at Numaligarh Refinery, from 3 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) to 9 mtpa, investments in gas distribution infrastructure, biorefineries, expansion of marketing infrastructure, and retail outlets.

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