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Shell upset, to remain patient about retail foray

Hazira, Sept. 19 (PTI): Royal Dutch Shell, the world’s third largest oil firm, today said Supreme Court ruling that halted the privatisation of HPCL and BPCL was a “major setback”, but added that it would be patient in pursuing its retail plans.

“The stay on the decision to privatise HPCL and BPCL by the Court is a setback as we had many (plans) on mind,” Malcolm Brinded, global managing director, Royal Dutch Shell, told reporters here.

Shell, which along with BP Plc, Petronas of Malaysia, Kuwait Petroleum Corporation, Saudi Aramco, Reliance Industries and Essar Oil were in the race for government stake in India’s third largest oil firm HPCL, had to abort the due diligence process after the Supreme Court ruling on Tuesday.

The apex court asked the government to seek Parliament approval of its stake sale in HPCL and BPCL. “It is a setback. A bigger one for India in the sense that we were looking to a better presence in the country and were examining all details very closely,” Brinded said.

Asked if the apex court’s stay was a ‘signal’ to the government and a ‘matter of concern for the company’, Brinded said, “We are not concerned.

The Supreme Court’s decision will not cause any policy decision by the government. We will wait to see what develops and how they respond to this judgement.”

Shell has secured a license to set up 2000 petrol pumps in the country, first of which is scheduled for launch in the first half of 2004. With HPCL not coming through, the company would pursue the retail network plan, Brinded said.

Shell India chairman Vikram Singh Mehta said the company would set up 2000 petrol pumps in the next three years. The company would meet Rs-2,000-crore investment requirement for the retail license by early next year, he added.

Shell was given a conditional license to set up petrol pumps early this year with the rider that it would invest Rs 2,000 crore in refining, oil exploration and production, pipelines or terminals, failing which it was asked to furnish a bank guarantee of Rs 500 crore.

Shell had spun the license application around in the proposed 5-million-tonne LNG import terminal at Hazira.

Mehta said the company had already invested $260 million till date and would cross Rs 2,000 crore mark early next year.

LNG output at Hazira

Shell’s $600-million LNG import and regassification terminal at Hazira will be commissioned in the second half of 2004 and hoped to make available gas at a very competitive price by the year end, Brinded said.

The terminal will initially have a capacity of 2.5 million tonnes (around 9 million standard cubic meters per day) which will be doubled once demand picks up.

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