Kuwait Petroleum eyes stake in India's Bina refinery: sources

NEW DELHI/MUMBAI (Reuters) - Kuwait Petroleum International (KPI) is in talks to buy 24 percent of the Bina joint venture refinery in central India, two Indian and two foreign sources said, as the Middle East nation wants to increase its South Asian market share.

Global oil producers are vying to gain entry into India’s expanding refining sector. The world’s third-biggest oil importer plans to raise its refining capacity by 77 percent to about 8.8 million barrels per day (bpd) by 2030 to meet rising fuel demand.

“Talks with KPI are at a preliminary stage,” said one of the Indian sources. KPI is the international downstream unit of state-owned Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (KPC).

The 120,000-bpd Bina plant is operated by Bharat Oman Refineries Ltd (BORL), a 50-50 joint venture between Oman Oil Co and state-run Bharat Petroleum Corp BPCL.NS.

Kuwait Petroleum International Chief Executive Officer Nabil Bourisli said in April his company intends to sign a deal soon to buy a stake in an Indian refinery and petrochemical project and supply as much as 200,000 bpd of oil.

BPCL, Oman Oil and KPI did not respond to Reuters e-mails seeking comment on any discussions.

BPCL has funded an expansion of the Bina refinery to 156,000 bpd that is to be completed later this year. Oman Oil did not invest in the upgrade. BPCL has an option to convert its additional spending into equity that would raise its overall share in BORL to 74 percent.

Indian sources said BPCL would like to retain at least 50 percent in BORL, mirroring an equity structure for a planned west coast refining project co-financed by Saudi Aramco in which Indian and foreign ownership is evenly split.

Saudi Aramco last month signed a deal to buy a 50 percent stake in the $44-billion planned project in Maharashtra, with an option to share a part of its equity with a new foreign partner. Abu Dhabi National Oil Co (ADNOC) may join Aramco for the project, sources said last month.

For Bina, the plan would be for BPCL to retain half of the refinery, while KPI and Oman Oil would share the remaining 50 percent stake, the Indian sources said.

An Oman Oil Co source said participation of KPI is one of the proposals being discussed among the three parties - BPCL, Oman Oil Co and KPI - but that nothing is finalised yet.

BORL has plans to double its expanded refining capacity to 310,000 bpd and build a petrochemical project.

BORL turned profitable for the first time in fiscal 2015/16, and since then has been posting double-digit gross refining margins. In 2016/17, BORL’s net profit more than doubled to 8.1 billion Indian rupees ($121.91 million).

Oil from Kuwait accounted for about 6 percent of India’s overall imports in 2017/18.

($1 = 66.4400 Indian rupees)

Reporting by Nidhi Verma in NEW DELHI and Promit Mukherjee in MUMBAI; Additional reporting by Rani El Gamal in DUBAI; Editing by Tom Hogue