The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Fuel fate hangs in balance

New Delhi, Nov. 7: The government today pushed back a decision on fuel prices by a week.

“We are trying to see if we can find a solution next week,” oil minister Murli Deora told reporters here.

With the Indian basket of crude touching an all-time high of $89.3 per barrel, pressure is mounting on the government to bail out state-owned oil marketing companies which have been scalded by the flare-up in global prices.

Sarthak Behuria, chairman of the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), today said the company was losing Rs 122 crore daily by selling fuel at prices below costs.

Any hike in prices would not only spoil the festive spirit before Diwali but would also cost the Congress in the coming assembly polls in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.

“The government is very much alive to the problems (of rising global prices). We are trying our best to resolve this problem as early as possible,” Deora said.

If there is no price rise, the IOC will be forced to raise borrowings by Rs 3,000 crore a month from November, Behuria said.

He said the delay in the hike was affecting the capital investment plans of the company. Behuria said the IOC was losing Rs 6.34 on every litre of petrol, Rs 7.88 on diesel, Rs 212 per LPG cylinder and Rs 17 on a litre of kerosene.

“These losses are based on the October crude oil price average when the Indian basket was at $79.33 per barrel. Now the Indian basket is at $89.36 a barrel, which will widen the losses,” he said.

IOC in Mauritius

Mauritius today invited the IOC to invest in LPG marketing and distribution.

Rajeshwar Jeetah, the Mauritius minister for industry, said the country planned to increase its LPG consumption to 100,000 tonnes from 60,000 tonnes. IOC officials said they were in a position to participate in the LPG business, provided Mauritius sources LPG.

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