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BPCL nationalisation Act repealed in 2016; privatisation way clear

New Delhi: Ahead of a proposed move to fully privatise state-owned fuel retailer Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd (BPCL), the government had quietly repealed the legislation that had nationalised the company, doing away with the need to seek Parliament nod before selling it off to private and foreign firms.

The Repealing and Amending Act of 2016 had annulled "187 obsolete and redundant laws lying unnecessarily on the Statue-Book" including the Act of 1976 that had nationalised erstwhile Burmah Shell.

"The Act has been repealed and there is no need for a Parliament approval for strategic sale of BPCL," a senior official said.

Keen to get multi-nationals in domestic fuel retailing to boost competition, the government is mulling selling most of its 53.3% stake in BPCL to a strategic partner.

Privatisation of BPCL will not just shake up the fuel retailing sector long dominated by state-owned firms but also help meet at least a third of the government's Rs 1.05 lakh crore disinvestment target.

BPCL at the close of market on October 4 had a market capitalisation of about Rs 1.11 lakh crore and a government stake sale could get upwards of Rs 60,000 crore including a control-and-fuel-market-entry premium, officials said.

The Supreme Court had in September 2003 ruled that BPCL, as well as Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL), can be privatised only after Parliament amends a law it had previously passed to nationalise the two firms.

The ruling had followed a plan of the then BJP-led NDA government headed by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to privatise the two firms.

The apex court ruling had stalled the plan to sell 34.1% out of government's 51.1% stake in HPCL to a strategic partner along with management control.

Reliance Industries Ltd, BP plc of UK, Kuwait Petroleum, Petronas of Malaysia, the Shell-Saudi Aramco combine and Essar Oil had expressed their interest in acquiring that stake before the Supreme Court stalled the process.

But the Supreme Court mandated condition is no longer applicable, they said citing the May 9, 2016, Gazette notification following President's assent to The Repealing and Amending Act, 2016.