Total SA eyes stake in Indian LNG terminals, city gas distribution: CEO

Weeks after it exited the Hazira LNG terminal in India, French oil and gas giant Total SA said on Tuesday that the company is in talks with multiple companies to pick up stake in liquefied natural gas(LNG) import terminals in India. 

The company is also keen on investing in city gas distribution and fuel retail segments said the company's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Patrick Pouyanne addressing the India Energy Forum by CERAWeek in New Delhi.

In the month of August, Total had signed a binding Letter of Intent (LoI) with Shell for the sale of its 26 per cent minority equity stake in Hazira LNG regasification terminal in India. It had also signed an agreement to sell 0.5 million tonnes of LNG per year to Shell over five years on a delivery basis to supply the markets of India and neighbouring countries.

Apart from four existing LNG terminals, India is set to come up with at least 10 more LNG projects, which is expected to take the total capacity of the terminals in the country to around 72.5 million tonnes per annum (MTPA).

While stating that access to the Indian LNG sector is not a problem as there are multiple projects coming up, he refused to divulge details on the projects that the company is setting its sight on. One of the reasons that the company might have exited Hazira project may be because of its minority shareholding in the project. Experts also believe that Total's strategy was to capture value through an asset disposal. 

There were reports that the French major was keen on picking up stakes in Adani Group's two LNG projects and attached city gas distribution projects. Meanwhile, the company's interest in retail is coming at a time when India has set up a committee headed by economist Kirit Parikh to liberalise the fuel retail market and increase private sector participation. The committee would review the existing architecture of private sector participation in retail marketing and to identify entry barriers for the expansion of retail outlets for private sector marketing companies. It may also asses the need to liberalise existing guidelines for authorisation of private sector companies.

Out of the total 63,275 retail outlets in India, 56,999 belong to the state-run companies. On the other hand, private sector companies put together have only 6,276 outlets across the country — with 4,756 outlets coming under Nayara, 1400 by RIL, 114 by Shell and around six outlets by other private players.

Early this year, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory board had signed a letter of intent with companies for 78 geographical areas under the ninth round of city gas distribution (CGD) bidding.

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