Millennium Post

Assam govt to allocate Rs 15,000 cr for buying back 13% NRL shares

Guwahati: Assam government will allocate Rs 1500 crore in the forthcoming budget session to buy back 13 per cent shares in the Numaligarh Refinery Limited (NRL), state Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said on Tuesday.

The state government had a share of 26 per cent in the NRL when it was established, but it later sold off more than 13 per cent of its share to Bharat Petroleum Company Limited (BPCL), the majority stakeholder, Sarma said.

There were plans to sell off central PSU BPCL's stakes in NRL to private parties but the state government urged the Centre to keep the firm in the public sector and Prime Minister Narendra Modi agreed to the proposal, he said.

The Union Cabinet in November last year has decided to sell its 53.29 per cent stake in the BPCL after taking out the NRL from its portfolio.

"Due to mysterious reasons, the then Congress government sold off more than 13 per cent of its share to the BPCL and kept its stake at 12.3 per cent," he said.

He said each NRL share is currently valued at Rs 140 and the state will have to spend Rs 1500 crore to buy back the shares which will be a huge burden on the state exchequer.

"But we will raise it somehow to restore the state government's initial stake of 26 per cent. The Centre is considering the matter sympathetically and the process is on with the state finance department to introduce the matter for allocation of funds in the next budget session," Sarma said.

The minister, however, said if any other state-owned oil company, barring the Oil India Limited (OIL), was willing to buy the shares, the state government is ready to keep its stake at 12.3 per cent.

"We have put forth these two proposals -- of buying back the shares (by the Assam government) and purchase of shares by a state-owned oil firm -- before the Centre.

Discussions are currently on. But we want the people of Assam to be aware of the prevailing situation regarding NRL," Sarma said.

The minister said if the then state government had not sold its share in the NRL, then valued at Rs 300 crore, "We would have had a decisive say in the growth and future of the company".

Besides, if the state government had a share of 26 per cent, the annual dividend received from the NRL would have been much higher, Sarma added.

The NRL is a joint venture PSU comprising the BPCL (61.65 per cent), OIL (26 per cent) and the Assam government (12.35 per cent).

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