It’s been a good year for oil & gas stocks. From refiners to explorers to utilities, most stocks across industry segments have gained smartly.
Among the big winners were the public sector oil marketing stocks Indian Oil, HPCL and BPCL. These stocks, on a roll since 2014, gained another 50-85 per cent last year. This was backed by healthy profit growth, thanks to continued fuel pricing reforms, a favourable refining market environment, and good volume growth.
HPCL and Indian Oil doubled their profits year-on-year in the first half ended September 2016, while BPCL’s profit rose about 16 per cent. The stocks of PSU standalone refiners CPCL and MRPL also gained 60-81 per cent, backed by expansion and good refining margins which translated into healthy profit growth.
PSU explorers ONGC and Oil India also gained strongly (29-39 per cent) on the bourses last year. Despite their profit being under pressure due to lower crude oil prices, the recovery of oil from its lows of $30 a barrel in early 2016 helped sentiment.
So did the output cut deal among OPEC and major non-OPEC producers in November and December that sparked a rally in oil prices.
The stock of private sector explorer Cairn India more than doubled last year. But this was primarily due to shareholder approval to the company’s proposed merger with parent Vedanta — this removed an overhang on the stock. With the stocks tied at the hip, the rally in commodity prices that aided the Vedanta stock also reflected in Cairn India’s strong run on the bourses.
Gas utilities also did very well. The stock of Delhi-based city gas distributor Indraprastha Gas gained 68 per cent last year; this was thanks to strong profit growth aided by good volume pick-up and government-mandated assured cheap domestic gas supplies.
Mahanagar Gas, the Mumbai-based city gas distributor which debuted on the bourses last year, also had a solid run. The stock of gas importer and regasifier Petronet LNG rallied 50 per cent last year; the company benefited from the continued fall in domestic gas supplies and cheaper imported gas that found a ready market.
Gas transmission major GAIL (India) saw a turnaround in its petrochemicals business and improvement in its gas transmission and trading volumes. This helped triple its profit y-o-y in the six months ended September 2016, and saw the stock rally about 36 per cent last year.
But private sector oil & gas biggie Reliance Industries gained just about 2 per cent on the bourses. Despite a strong show by its refining and petrochemicals segments which more than offset the continued weakness in its exploration business, the stock remained subdued.
This was due to concerns about the multi-billion dollar bet on Jio, the telecom business which could take a few years to break even. Excluding accounting adjustments, the company’s profit in the six months ended September 2016 grew nearly 30 per cent y-o-y.