RBI move may hit fuel supplies to Mauritius

New Delhi: Fuel supplies to Mauritius, which sources its entire requirement of petrol, diesel and jet fuel from India, may be disrupted following the Reserve Bank of India's (RBI) clamp down on the main conduit the Indian companies use to pay for Iranian oil, reports PTI.

The RBI's rather sudden and unilateral decision to discontinue the Asian Clearing Union (ACU), a move that effectively stops settlements in US dollars and the euro, will most impact Mangalore Refinery (MRPL) which sources 60% of its crude needs from Iran.

MRPL supplies Mauritius' entire requirement of 1,00,000 tons of petrol, 3,50,000 tons of diesel and 2,70,000 tons of jet fuel annually by processing Iranian crude oil.

The company has written to the RBI warning of disruption in these supplies due to its move on Iran, sources privy to the development said.

Its three-year contract to export 1.1 million tonnes of products annually to Mauritius has been finalised based on crude supply arrangements from Iran.

"Non availability of Iranian crude oil would result in supply disruption to Mauritius and the entire Mauritius may come to stand still as they operate with a very low level of inventory," a source quoted MRPL's letter to the RBI.

MRPL is India's largest importer of Iranian crude oil at 7.5 million tonnes per annum. Iran is India's second largest crude oil supplier after Saudi Arabia. It sold 21.3 million tonnes of crude oil to India in 2009-10.

So far supplies from Iran have not been disrupted as the Islamic republic has agreed to sell crude oil on credit pending resolution of the gridlock, sources said adding the RBI had taken the decision to scrap the ACU without putting in place an alternate payment mechanism and without consulting importers.

Neither United Nations nor US sanctions prohibit crude oil purchase from Iran. The European Union, through which payments till last month were being routed, had only asked for certification of commodity imported from Iran using euros.

MRPL, the source said, asked the RBI to issue certification of crude oil imports as per the State Bank of India (SBI) approved format to meet the requirement of Deutsche Bundes Bank, the central bank of Europe, for the purpose.

Besides guaranteeing such large volumes annually, Iran also gives 90 days' credit period for payments for crude imports as opposed to global practice of 30 days credit.

If such large volumes are stopped, India will be forced to tap the expensive spot market to meet the deficit, they said.

MRPL and other Iranian crude importers-Indian Oil Corporation, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation and private sector Essar Oil-want an alternative mechanism for settlement of payments against imports of crude oil from Iran to be put in place immediately.

Besides MRPL, IOC and HPCL import 3 million tonnes each and Essar imports about 5 million tonnes of crude oil.

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Thursday Market Report: In a wide trading range

Sensex may trade in a range for a few more days with reducing volatility 

The market opened in negative territory on lower-than-expected quarterly earnings announced by IT bellwether Infosys Technologies. Some pull-back was noticed towards noon, but the announcement of the weekly food inflation data added to the woes, dragging the indices further southwards. Nervousness ahead of the wholesale price index-based inflation data, due to be announced tomorrow, kept the indices range-bound in the post-noon trade.

Another minor bout of selling in the last half-hour resulted in the market touching the day's low and closing marginally higher, albeit in the red.

On Wednesday we had said watch out whether the index trades on Thursday above the previous day's high, for indications of strength. The Sensex and Nifty traded below yesterday's high in the morning session and soon the bears took over. Eventually, the Sensex fell 351 points at 19,183 and the Nifty fell 111 points at 5,752 wiping off yesterday's gains completely.

The market continues to look weak and will trade in the range of 19,000 and 19,600 on the Sensex. Watch out tomorrow whether the market trades above today's high, for the first indication that the current bearish spell is about to end.

The market breadth was negative today. The Sensex had 25 losers, four gainers and one stock remained unchanged. On the Nifty, 41 stocks declined while nine were in the advancing list. Among the broader markets, the BSE Mid-cap index declined 0.80% and the BSE Mid-cap index fell 0.65%.

The BSE Realty index (up 0.54%) was the only sectoral gauge to end higher. BSE Bankex (down 3.53%), BSE IT (down 3.41%), BSE TECk (down 2.76%), BSE Consumer Durables (down 2.70%) and BSE Metal (down 1.23%) were the top sectoral losers.

Tata Motors (up 1.58%), ONGC (up 1.04%), DLF (up 0.61%) and Reliance Communications (up 0.14%) were the gainers on the Sensex. The laggards were Infosys Technologies (down 4.82%), State Bank of India (down 3.91%), ICICI Bank (down 3.88%), HDFC Bank (down 2.90%) and Wipro (down 2.67%) were the top losers.

Food inflation declined, but still remained at an elevated level of 16.91% for the week ended 1st January, prompting the government to assure more steps to rein in prices of essential items. Even as food inflation moderated from 18.32% from the previous week, overall inflation, as measured by the wholesale price index, is likely to go up in the range of 8.2%-8.5% in December, from 7.48% in the previous month, economists said.

Markets in Asia, baring the Seoul Composite, ended with gains on signs that authorities in Europe were making concerted efforts to contain the debt crisis. The gains were also supported by material stocks on higher commodity prices.

The Shanghai Composite gained 0.22%, the Hang Seng rose 0.47%, the Jakarta Composite advanced 0.29%, the KLSE Composite was up 0.32%, the Nikkei 225 surged     0.73%, the Straits Times rose 0.34% and the Taiwan Weighted added 0.12%. On the other hand, the Seoul Composite lost 0.26% in trade today.

Back home, foreign institutional investors were net sellers of stocks worth Rs371.50 crore on Wednesday. On the other hand, domestic investors were net buyers of equities worth Rs359.21 crore.

BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (RIM) today said it has provided a solution for legally intercepting messenger and internet services, but denied access on the BlackBerry Enterprise Server, saying the company has "no ability to provide its customers' encryption key." However, the enablement of lawful access does not extend to the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES), which is essentially a Virtual Private Network (VPN) solution.

After announcing their joint venture in late 2009, Indian Oil Corporation (down 2.76%) today formally entered into an agreement with the Nuclear Power Corporation to set up power plants across the country. The agreement marks the foray of the oil refining and marketing major into nuclear power generation. The state-run oil major has already forayed into renewable energy sources like solar, wind, bio-fuels and hydrogen.

J B Chemicals & Pharmaceuticals (down 2.75%) on Thursday said its profit after tax (PAT) rose by 28.95% to Rs38.12 crore for the third quarter ended 31st December compared to Rs29.56 crore in the previous corresponding period. The company's net sales stood at Rs216.67 crore for the third quarter, up from Rs198.07 crore in the year-ago period.

Elecon Engineering Company (up 0.63%) has been awarded an order worth Rs24.83 crore from S K Samanta & Company for design, engineering, manufacturing, supplying, erection, testing and commissioning of material handling equipments and other equipment.

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