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Slowdown now hits oil sector; petrol, diesel consumption falls

The slowdown is coming at a time when international environment is very favourable, in terms of pricing of crude oil.

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New Delhi, Oct 17 : The oil sector seems to be latest addition to the list of sectors facing stress due to the ongoing economic slowdown. For the first time in many months, both oil demand and imports have witnessed a sharp fall indicating that poor health of the economy has now begun impacting a sector where the country relies a lot on imports.

As per latest the Oil Ministry data, petroleum products demand in India has slipped to its two-year low level in September at 105.7 million tones. The fall is largely on account of a consistent fall witnessed in the consumption of auto fuels – petrol and diesel. Both fuels have reached their lowest consumption level in September with consumption of petrol and diesel falling to 2.3 and 5.8 million tonnes level respectively in September. The consumption of the two products have fallen in each of the months in current financial year indicating the slowdown is taking its toll in the oil sector as well.

What is worse is that consumption fall has also resulted in slowing down of oil imports that have fallen by 0.5 per cent during April-August 2019 from a level of 94.9 million tonnes (MT) in FY19 to 94.4 MT in the five-month period of the current fiscal. While a slowdown in oil imports should be welcomed in a country that spends its foreign exchange to but crude oil, it is reflective of poor demand scenario that has slowed oil imports by refineries.

The refineries are using their inventories for meeting domestic supplies of petroleum products rather than buying additional quantities of crude oil from overseas even though buying at this juncture would be beneficial with international crude prices at a low of $58.9 a barrel.

“It is surprising that oil imports have fallen when global prices are stable and low. This means that consumption has declined and demand is not picking up. The sector has begun to feel the pain of an economy that several of the consuming industries such as automobiles are already facing,” said an executive of the Indian Oil Corporation asking not to be named.

Though it is difficult to derive conclusive relationship between oil imports/sales and economic activity, analysts are unanimous that current contraction is the result of a slowdown. Otherwise, sales of petroleum products should not have fallen when per capita consumption has been growing.

As per the Petroleum Planning and Analysis Cell (PPAC) of the Oil Ministry, except for bitumen and lubricants, consumption of all other petroleum products such as petrol, diesel, ATF, kerosene, LPG, naptha, and petroleum coke have fallen in September on a month-on-month basis. Some of the products have maintained a fall throughout the first half of current fiscal.

Total LPG consumption fell to 2.2 MT in September from a level of 2.4 in August, even though government Ujjwala scheme is fast expanding the reach of cooking gas to remotest corner of the country. Even kerosene consumption registered de-growth, falling to 1.76 lakh tonnes in September from over 2.3 lakh tonnes in August.

All is not good on oil export front as well with exports of petroleum products decreasing by 5.2 per cent during August 2019 as compared to the same period of the previous year. Decrease in petroleum products exports during August 2019 was due to decrease in all exports.

Indigenous crude oil and condensate production during August 2019 was lower by 5.4 per cent than that of August 2018. OIL, ONGC and PSC registered lower production of 4.2 per cent, 3.7 per cent and 9.5 per cent, respectively, during August 2019 as compared to August 2018. On cumulative basis, indigenous crude oil and condensate production of the country was lower by 6.1 per cent during April-August 2019 as compared to the corresponding period of the previous year.

The slowdown is coming at a time when international environment is very favourable, in terms of pricing of crude oil. The price of Brent crude averaged $59 per barrel during October 2019 and around $60 a barrel in September 2019 against much higher levels last year. The Indian basket crude price averaged $59.35/barrel during August 2019 as against $63.63/barrel during July 2019.

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SC seeks Centre, RBI reply on levying interest charges during moratorium

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New Delhi, May 26 : The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued notice to the Centre and Reserve Bank of India on a plea challenging the levy of interest on loan during the stipulated moratorium period.

A bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, S.K. Kaul and M.R. Shah asked the Centre and RBI to file their response within a week.

The plea has been filed by a borrower, who is aggrieved by the March 27 RBI notification. This notification allows interest on the loan to be levied during the moratorium period, which has been extended up to August 31.

Senior advocate Rajiv Dutta, representing the petitioner, contended before the bench that the moratorium has been extended to 6 months, from the initial 3 months. Dutta argued that the final accounting for his client, regarding the interest should be done after the decision of the top court on the matter.

The plea argues the interest on loan during moratorium is unconstitutional, as during lockdown, people’s income has already shrunk and people are under financial crisis.

Dutta, seeking relief, insisted that his client should not be penalized, and interest should not be added to the loan amount during this period,” argued Dutta.

He also informed the apex court that replies were being filed without any formal notice being issued. The bench took this argument into consideration and issued formal notice.

On March 27, the RBI had ordered a 3-month moratorium on the payment of all kinds of installments — EMIs or credit cards or outstanding term loans — for the period between March 1, 2020 and May 31, 2020.

The plea argues the outright “capriciousness” and “arbitrariness” of the RBI notification as it acts as a burden on borrowers like the petitioner, which violates principles of natural justice.

On May 8, the apex court had allowed Solicitor General Tushar Mehta time to seek instructions from RBI and the Centre on the issue.

“While granting the relief of moratorium during the lockdown to borrowers, the action of imposition of interest during the moratorium period is completely devastating, wrong and, in a way, has taken away the benefit of imposing moratorium. This has caused hindrance in right to life guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution, 1950 in furtherance of right to life, including right to livelihood, which is a pre-requisite to the fundamental right guaranteed under Article 21 to people of India”, said the plea.

The petitioner said in the present scenario, when all the means of livelihood have been curtailed by the Centre by imposition of complete lockdown pan India, due to worldwide outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic and the petitioner being a citizen of India has no way to continue his work and earn livelihood, imposition of interest during the moratorium will defeat the purpose of permitting moratorium on loans.

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India’s GDP likely to contract 5% in FY 2020-21: Crisil

“We estimate the fiscal cost of this package at 1.2 per cent of GDP, which is lower than what we had assumed in our earlier estimate (when we foresaw a growth in GDP),” it said.

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New Delhi, May 26 : Days after the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said that India’s GDP growth for the financial year 2020-21 may remain in the negative territory, CRISIL has projected that the country’s economy contract by 5 per cent this fiscal, downgrade from its previous estimate of 1.8 per cent growth.

In a report, Crisil said that although non-agricultural GDP is expected to contract 6 per cent, agriculture could cushion the blow by growing at 2.5 per cent.

It said “things have only gone downhill since” its previous forecast of 1.8 per cent growth on April 28.

The report noted that as per the available data, in the past 69 years, India has seen a recession only thrice, in fiscal years 1958, 1966 and 1980. The reason was the same each time, a monsoon shock that hit agriculture, then a sizeable part of the economy.

“The recession staring at us today is different. For one, agriculture could soften the blow this time by growing near its trend rate, assuming a normal monsoon. Two, the pandemic-induced lockdowns have affected most non-agriculture sectors,” it said, adding that the global disruption also has upended whatever opportunities India had on the exports front.

Laying down the factors for the downward revision GDP outlook, Crisil said that latest studies by the Public Health Foundation of India and the World Health Organization suggest the pandemic spread could peak by mid-July, implying that even if the nationwide lockdown is lifted after May 31, states with high and rising COVID-19 cases could continue with restrictions, which will be a drag on the economy.

It, however, said that on the positive side the Indian Meteorological Department expects the southwest monsoon this year to be 96-104 per cent of the long-period average, which augurs well for agriculture and crude oil prices are expected to average $30 per barrel in fiscal 2021, cushioning the economy.

Talking of the economic package recently announced by the Centre, it said that the package has some short-term measures to cushion the economy, but sets its sights majorly on reforms, most of which will have payoffs only over the medium term (more details in the next section).

“We estimate the fiscal cost of this package at 1.2 per cent of GDP, which is lower than what we had assumed in our earlier estimate (when we foresaw a growth in GDP),” it said.

It said that successive lockdowns have a non-linear and multiplicative effect on the economy and a two-month lockdown will be more than twice as debilitating as a one-month imposition, as buffers keep eroding.

Partial relaxations continue to be a hindrance to supply chains, transportation and logistics, it said, adding that unless the entire supply chain is unlocked, the impact of improved economic activity will be subdued.

“Therefore, despite the stringency of lockdown easing a tad in the third and the fourth phases, their negative impact on GDP is expected to massively outweigh the benefits from mild fiscal support and low crude oil prices, especially in the April-June quarter. Consequently, we expect the current quarter’s GDP to shrink 25 per cent on-year,” it said.

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Bharti Telecom sells 2.75% Airtel stake, raises Rs 8,433 cr

Bharti Group and Singtel, as Bharti Airtel’s largest shareholders, remain committed to the business and long-term prospects of Bharti Airtel, it said.

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New Delhi, May 26 : Bharti Telecom has sold 2.75 per cent stake in Bharti Airtel to institutional investors through an accelerated book building process in the secondary market, raising Rs 8,433 crore.

The allocation was done to over 50 accounts with the top 10 getting two-third of it, Bharti Telecom said in a statement, here on Tuesday.

The sale proceeds would be used to repay promoter holding company’s debt, it said.

Bharti Group and Singtel, as Bharti Airtel’s largest shareholders, remain committed to the business and long-term prospects of Bharti Airtel, it said.

“The strong and wide response received from a diverse mix of investors across geographies, even during challenging global macro-economic conditions, shows the competitive strength and the long-term prospects of Bharti Airtel,” said Harjeet Kohli, Group Director, Bharti Enterprises.

“On the back of such a strong demand from international and domestic investors, the amount raised was increased to $1.15 billion,” he said.

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