Government likely to extend deadline for BPCL bidding for third time

An empowered group of secretaries, headed by Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba, is set to take up the issue in a meeting on Thursday
The government is likely to extend the deadline for bidding for the privatisation of Bharat Petroleum Corporation (BPCL) for the third time in a row, from the current date of July 31.

According to sources, the extension of the timelines for expression of interest (EoI) may well be until international airline services are back in place, as a lot of prospective bidders have expressed concerns regarding the current situation.

An empowered group of secretaries, headed by Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba, is set to take up the issue in a meeting on Thursday. The other members of the committee include Niti Aayog chief executive officer Amitabh Kant and Tuhin Kumar Pandey, secretary of the Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM).

The meeting will discuss the formalities and timelines of disinvestment. "It is expected that the timelines may be further extended from the current deadline of July 31. Hence, it may even be more than a month," said a source aware of the development.

The committee will also take into account a lot of concerns raised by prospective bidders on the back of Covid-19 pandemic, including a timeline extension.

A major roadblock before international investors is the shutdown of flights. According to industry experts, for any investor to place bids will have to come to the country, meet officials and discuss things with BPCL management and also physically visit the sites and inspect assets.

"In BPCL's case, this has not happened and this is one of the major concerns before the overseas players," said a source.
The Cabinet had approved the sale of government's entire 52.98 per cent stake in BPCL in November last year. Offers seeking expression of interest (EoI), or bids showing interest in buying its stake, were invited only on March 7.

Initially, the EoI submission deadline was May 2, but on March 31 it was extended up to June 13 and then to July 31. According to the notice inviting offer, the government's plan is to sell its entire shareholding in BPCL comprising of 114.91 crore equity shares, with transfer of management control to a strategic buyer, excluding the company's 61.65 per cent in Numaligarh Refinery in Assam.

The company's stakes in Numaligarh refinery is expected to be sold to another public sector undertaking. So far, a consortium of state-run Oil India (OIL) and Engineers India (EIL) has shown interest in taking up BPCL's 48 per cent stake in Numaligarh. The remaining stake would be sold to the government of Assam, to increase the state's share to 26 per cent in the venture.

The bidding for BPCL includes two stages, one participation of qualified bidders in the EOI stage and then financial bids. Any private company having a net worth of over $10 billion will be eligible for bidding, or a consortium of not more than four firms will be allowed to participate. However, state-run companies are not allowed to participate in the process.

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