The Asian Development Bank (ADB) wants to exit Petronet LNG Ltd (PLL) and has offered to sell its 5.2 per cent stake in the country's largest liquefied natural gas importer to state-owned oil firms Indian Oil Corp, Oil and Natural Gas Corp, GAIL India and Bharat Petroleum Corp.
"ADB last month wrote to PLL Chairman and Oil Secretary S. Sundareshan expressing its desire to exit the company," a company official said. The multilateral lending agency holds 3.9 crore shares in Petronet LNG, which at Monday's trading price of R114.85 is worth R448 crore.
State-owned IOC, ONGC, GAIL India and BPCL each have 12.5 per cent stake in Petronet and each has pre-emption or right of first refusal in case any ADB is to exit the company. "ADB has also written separate letters to IOC, ONGC, GAIL and BPCL informing them its decision to exit PLL and offering them all of its 5.2 per cent holding as per the condition laid in the shareholders agreement," he said.
However, officials said, the PSU oil firms may not be in a position to acquire ADB shareholding as any increase in their shareholding would change the character of PLL.
PLL is a private company with combined shareholding of the four state-owned firms pegged just a notch below 50 per cent. IOC, ONGC, GAIL and BPCL hold 9.375 crore shares each. Their combined holding of 37.5 crore shares is below the half way mark in the company, which has a total outstanding shares of 75,00,00,044. The four promoter firms are examining the ADB offer, the official said.
Industry sources said French firm GdF International, which has a 10 per cent stake in PLL and similar rights as the state- owned firms, too may not be interested in buying ADB stake as the price is too high.
A stake sale to a private firm would be subject to approval of the promoters, they said.
PLL operates a LNG terminal at Dahej in Gujarat with a capacity to import 10 million tonnes a year of liquefied natural gas. It is also building a 2.5 million tonnes a year import facility at Kochi that would be commissioned in 2012.
LNG is natural gas chilled to liquid form, reducing it to one-six-hundredth of its original volume at minus 161 degrees Celsius, for transportation by ship.