India must be prepared for all eventualities over Iran: Oil minister

The government fears Turkey may come under pressure to halt the conduit after the US imposed a fresh round of sanctions against Iran, with the European Union slated to announce tough measures of its own in this regard at the end of the month

New Delhi: India has not faced any problems in paying for crude oil it buys from Iran, but needs to be prepared for all eventualities, reports PTI quoting oil minister S Jaipal Reddy.

“We continue to be optimistic. Iran continues to be positive. However we have to be prepared for all eventualities,” Mr Reddy told reporters here.

An official said Turkey’s Turkiye Halk Bankasi AS, the bank through which India routes payments in euros to Iran for about 370,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil supplies, has so far not declined to be an intermediary.

“All that they (Turkey) have said is that they would not like to open new accounts but will continue to service existing accounts (through which payments are routed to Iran),” the official said, adding that not a single payment has defaulted since India began using the Turkey conduct in July last year.

US president Barack Obama on 31st December signed into law measures that deny access to the US financial system to any foreign bank that conducts business with the central bank of Iran.

The European Union will discuss imposing harsher sanctions on Iran, including a ban on crude imports, in response to the country’s nuclear programme when the bloc’s foreign ministers meet at the end of January.

The official said India will continue to buy crude oil from Iran, but would like to replace a part of the supplies with other sources like Saudi Arabia.

Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals, the largest buyer of Iranian oil, at 142,000 bpd, and other refiners are yet to renew their term import contracts with Iran for the year beginning April.

Essar Oil is looking at replacing 10% of the 110,000 bpd of oil it buys from Iran with other Gulf sources.

Yesterday, foreign secretary Ranjan Mathai had stated that New Delhi would not seek a waiver from US sanctions to protect its oil trade with Iran.

The US allows waivers for firms in countries that significantly reduce dealings with Iran or when it is either in the US national interest or necessary for energy market stability. Japan, South Korea and Turkey have all said they could seek waivers.

An Indian delegation comprising officials from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), oil ministry, finance ministry and refiners is currently in Tehran to discuss alternative modes and routes of payments.

Indian refiners began using Halkbank to pay Iran in July last year after the RBI scrapped a long-standing mechanism of payment through central banks.

New Delhi fears Turkey may come under pressure to halt the conduit after the US imposed a fresh round of sanctions against Iran, with the European Union slated to announce tough measures of its own in this regard at the end of the month.

Refiners have already begun talks with alternative suppliers to slowly replace some quantity of the 370,000 barrels a day of oil they buy from Iran.

MRPL, the biggest buyer of Iranian oil at 142,000 bpd, has not yet contracted any supplies for the year beginning April.

India is Iran’s second-largest crude buyer, taking about 13.5% of Iran's 2.6 million bpd of exports. New Delhi currently pays the world’s fourth-largest oil producer about $1 billion every month through Turkey.

Sources said the possibility of paying Iran in rupees or through the yen would be discussed at the meeting in Tehran.

Routing payments through Russia was discussed during the visit of prime minister Manmohan Singh to Moscow last month.

However, Russia has so far not agreed to route payments for India due to the ‘complexities’ involved.

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Free mobile calling app freephoo introduced in India

freephoo application will enable users to make free calls from their iPhone, iPod touch, iPad and Android-based phones using the WiFi or 3G network

Sweden-based freephoo has launched its mobile VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) application in India.

The application will enable users to make free calls from their iPhone, iPod touch, iPad and Android-based phones using the WiFi or 3G network.

On downloading freephoo, consumers can use their mobile number and phonebook to make free calls to other freephoo users.

"freephoo allows its user to make calls to people not having freephoo through its premium services with which user can make low priced calls to both fixed and mobile phones," freephoo spokesperson explained.

Spokesperson added that freephoo is currently available for Apple and Android users, but the company is looking at expand its services to other mobile phones as well.

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Morgan Stanley MF launches Multi Asset Fund

The NFO will close on January 31

Asset management firm Morgan Stanley has launched Morgan Stanley Multi Asset Fund, an open-ended debt fund, with an aim to generate regular income for its customers.

The NFO opens for subscription on January 17 and will close on January 31. The minimum subscription amount to the scheme is Rs5,000. The scheme has two plans—A and B, and both the options will have exposure to debt and equities. Plan B will also invest in gold exchange traded funds.

"We believe that the multi asset fund category has tremendous potential for growth. In the current market environment, multi asset funds which seek to generate reasonable returns with lower levels of risk, should find favour with investors," Morgan Stanley Mutual Fund Chief Executive Officer Anthony Heredia said in a statement. The assets managed by the fund house stand at Rs 2,086.07 crore as on December.

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