Pratim Ranjan Bose

Kolkata. Dec. 26

INDIAN Oil Corporation (IOC) is considering participating in a few opportunities in refining and downstream activities, including retailing and equity oil stake, in African nations.

The Centre has recently allowed Oil India Ltd (OIL) and IOC to acquire exploration and production assets overseas enabling them to get `fast-track' approval from the empowered committee for all future proposals. "The approval was actually awarded to OIL with first right of refusal to IOC," a company official said.

IOC is also gearing up to place the final bid for Canadian oil major Niko Resource's Indian assets in early January.

Regarding the forthcoming visit by a delegation from the Union Petroleum Ministry to China, IOC sources said they did not have any firm nomination offer in any Chinese refinery or downstream sector.

"The delegation would explore opportunities for future participation," it was stated. Talking about IOC's interests in Africa, sources said that the company was looking forward to participating in offers, which either combine equity oil stake or opportunities to enter the downstream sector.

On specifics, the official said that some of the offers involved a combination of refining and downstream activity. The others involved refining and equity oil stake.

"We have now zeroed in on this opportunities and are in the process of taking a final call shortly," the official said.

Company sources clarified that they were not looking at participation in the refining sector on a stand-alone basis as was offered by Nigeria.

IOC had previously expressed an interest in setting up a greenfield grassroots refinery in the oil rich Edo state of Nigeria in exchange for equity oil stake on a nomination basis. Though both the countries entered into an MoU in September 2004, Nigeria was yet to offer the equity oil stake to the company, it was stated.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated December 27, 2005)
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