Millennium Post

'Reliance-BP petrol pumps likely to dent PSU market share'

New Delhi: India's biggest company Reliance Industries Ltd and UK's BP plc formalising plans to set up up petrol pumps under Jio-BP brand will impact market share of state-owned fuel retailers, Morgan Stanley said in a research report.

Reliance and BP last week announced further details of their retail fuel partnership, in which the British firm has taken 49 per cent stake for $1 billion. The tie-up will see RIL's 1,400 existing pump stations being ramped up to 5,500 over five years. It also will increase the lucrative aviation fuel stations from 30 to 45.

"Targeted fuel station additions would be nearly equivalent to two-thirds of annual station additions by (state-owned) oil marketing companies (OMCs)," it said. "This should also help RIL sell more refined products domestically as refinery export restrictions ease."

Retail network will be under the Jio-BP brand and will cater to mobility solutions that may leverage BP's electric charging technologies and RIL's digital ecosystem.

"We have currently seen limited plans by OMCs on this front, however current regulations on the setup of electric charging infrastructure favour OMCs considering their reach."

RIL and BP expect to form their partnership by first half of 2020 and it will include convenience stores and Castrol lubricants. Morgan Stanley said the overall increased competition in domestic fuel markets would re-rate multiples as fuel pricing gets delinked from government intervention.

"Also, contrary to the market's belief that retail fuel margins will weaken due to competition, we believe they can expand over the medium term towards regional averages, which are 1.5-2x higher than in India," it said. "If the RIL-BP venture hits its target for fuel stations, it would account for nearly 8 per cent of pump stations by 2025. We see an impact on OMCs' market share both in aviation and auto fuels."

It believed that market leader Indian Oil Corp (IOC) could be impacted the most, as seen over the past decade when its retail fuel market share declined by 10 percentage points (to below 40 per cent) in favour of private players.

"Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd (BPCL), which has the highest exposure to highways, could see more aggressive pricing as RIL-BP would target these areas where throughput per outlet is higher," it said. "We see limited impact to HPCL considering its higher exposure to cities, which are normally tougher for new players to enter considering long-term leases even for dealer-operated stations."

However, both BPCL and HPCL have tried to protect market share in the past and they are seen keeping that stable going ahead. In August, RIL had said BP will pay about Rs 7,000 crore for acquiring 49 per cent stake in its existing petrol pumps and aviation turbine fuel network.

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