October 30, 2018 / 3:00 PM / 22 days ago

Puma Energy seeks license for retail fuel sales in India

NEW DELHI, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Global trader Trafigura has applied for a license for its downstream arm Puma Energy to start retail sales of gasoline and gasoil in India, an oil ministry spokesman and Trafigura said on Tuesday.

Global oil majors including BP, Total and Saudi Aramco want to enter India's fuel retail market, attracted by growing demand for gasoil and gasoline in the world's fastest growing major economy.

"A license has been applied for on behalf of Puma Energy, a downstream distribution company in which Trafigura is the largest shareholder, and that application is still pending," Trafigura said in an email.

Puma Energy, in which Trafigura has a 49.6 percent stake, operates in 49 countries. Last year it expanded into Pakistan by buying a stake in a fuel retail network.

According to Indian rules, a company can get marketing rights for transport fuels if it has invested or proposes to invest 20 billion rupees ($272 million) in the country's oil and gas sector over a 10 year period.

Last year, a consortium led by Russia's state-controlled Rosneft and including Trafigura and Russian fund UCP paid about $13 billion to buy 98.26 percent of India's Essar Oil, now known as Nayara Energy Ltd.

Nayara operates a 400,000 barrels per day oil refinery at Vadinar in western Gujarat state and controls 4,756 fuel stations in India.

Trafigura, which has about a 24.5 percent stake in Nayara, applied for a fuel retail license for Puma Energy about two months ago, an oil ministry source said.

The payment made by Trafigura for the Essar Oil stake cannot be considered an investment in India's oil and gas sector, this source said.

An Indian oil ministry spokesman said the government was examining Trafigura's request for a retail sales license.

"It is being examined and some information has been sought on their investment plans in the country's oil and gas sector. Once they reply, it will be looked into," the spokesman said.

The oil ministry source, however, said it would not be difficult for Trafigura to get the license, as Nayara has plans to expand its Vadinar refinery, set up a petchem plant and increase its number of fuel retail stations to 7,000 in three years.

"We gave a license for retail sales of petrol and diesel to BP after it made a commitment to make fresh investment in exploration after buying a stake in Indian oil and gas blocks from Reliance Industries," the oil ministry source said.

$1 = 73.6150 Indian rupees Reporting by Nidhi Verma; Editing by Mark Potter

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