NEW DELHI: Total SA, the French energy giant, is looking for a local partner to begin retailing petrol and diesel in the fast expanding Indian fuel market that already has a bunch of private and foreign oil giants competing with state firms.
“We have an interest, but we are looking to find the right partner to do the local business, like most of our peers have done,” CEO Patrick Pouyanne said after meeting Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan on Friday.
Deregulation of diesel in 2014 and petrol in 2010 has reignited interest of private and foreign players in the country’s booming fuel retailing business that has already attracted the likes of Shell, Rosneft, BP and Reliance Industries. State firms still dominate market with more than 90% market share but private firms have begun to carve their own space. In 2016-17, demand for diesel rose 1.8% and petrol 8.6%.
“It’s a big market. There are already very big players… I think for us it’s also a matter of finding the right Indian partner,” Pouyanne said, emphasising that his firm had the financial capability and business expertise but still needed local understanding that can come only through a local partner.
India has about 60,000 filling stations, of which state firms – Indian Oil, Bharat Petroleum and Hindustan Petroleum – control about 54,000. Reliance and Essar operate about 1400 and 3500 pumps respectively while Shell has less than 100 stations.
BP plans to do fuel retailing in a joint venture with Reliance while Essar’s petrol pumps are now controlled by Russia’s Rosneft.
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Total currently operates auto liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) fuelling stations in south India. The company sees big opportunity in the LPG business as a concerted government attempt at enrolling more customers has sharply increased cooking gas consumption in the country. Total plans to expand its LPG import, storage and distribution infrastructure in India, Pouyanne said.
Total also operates an LNG terminal in Gujarat. Pouyanne said the company plans to bring more LNG to India and help develop the local gas market.