A day after sending the Essar Group’s steel company to the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) for action under the insolvency code, the Joint Lenders Forum (JLF), led by State Bank of India and ICICI
Bank, on Friday approved the Rs 86,000-crore stake sale in Essar Oil
and the Trafigura-UCP consortium.
Sources said the 23-bank consortium approved the release of pledged shares of Essar Oil
to facilitate the closure of the transaction. With this, the Ruias would exit the company and use the proceeds of the sale to retire their debt to Indian as well as foreign banks.
The deal would help the Ruias reduce the Essar group’s debt by Rs 27,000 crore as the new owners would take over the debt of Essar Oil
and launch their own brand in India.
The transaction would be the largest foreign direct investment (FDI) in India and marks the entry of the Russian oil giant into the Indian oil refining and fuel retail business.
The all-cash deal includes Essar Oil’s 20-million-tonne refinery at Vadinar in Gujarat, and its pan-Indian network of over 3,500 retail outlets. The refinery, which accounts for nine per cent of India’s refining output, is supported by a 1,010 MW captive power plant and a 58-million-tonne deep draft port, which helps in importing crude oil and exporting finished products for the refinery. The related infrastructure is also being sold to Rosneft.
The deal was signed in October last year in the presence of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The deal, however, was delayed as state-owned insurer Life Insurance Corporation objected to the transaction and sought pre-payment of its loans worth Rs 3,000 crore. The Ruias agreed to LIC’s demand and got the institution on board.
By investing in Essar Oil, which operates one of the world’s most complex refineries and runs India’s largest private sector retail network, Rosneft
would get a strong foothold in the Indian market, which is expected to witness robust demand growth for petroleum products in the long term.
The growth for refined petroleum products in the Indian market for the next five years is expected to be in the 5 per cent to 7 per cent range. Rosneft
use the Essar refinery for processing its crude oil produced in Russia and sell it to Indian customers.
Apart from the refinery, Essar will also sell the Vadinar Power Company, two ports and 2,200 retail outlets, which are crucial for the refinery’s operations.
The Indian oil and gas sector is witnessing a revival of sorts with MNCs announcing increased investments. On June 16, Reliance Industries and British energy major BP announced an additional investment of Rs 40,000 crore in exploration of oil and gas from the Krishna Godavari basin off Andhra Pradesh coast.
The exit of the Ruias from Essar Oil
ends a chapter for the group which entered the business in the mid-1990s. The construction of the refinery was delayed for a considerable time due to a cyclone and regulatory delays, the commercial production started only in May 2008.