Mumbai: A year after BP Plc received an in-principle approval to launch its fuel retail business in India, the oil firm is working along with partner Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) to begin operations in a few months, three people with knowledge of the matter said.

BP is RIL’s partner in its exploration and production, and gas-sourcing businesses. BP had received approval and licence to set up 3,500 fuel retail outlets in October last year. “Discussions are on between RIL and BP. BP has a long-term view on India. In fact, BP with its own fuel retail licence can venture into the segment on its own. However, sourcing of fuel is an area that BP has to look into and thus may be seeking a co-branding with RIL," said one of the three people cited above, a consultant with an advisory firm, on the condition of anonymity.

BP did not respond to an email sent on 17 October.

“Discussions are going (on) and I am sure we will agree upon all the contours that we expect to get done. So, either it (the venture) comes before mid, or end of next quarter," V. Srikanth, joint chief financial officer at RIL said after the company’s second quarter earnings on 13 October.

Srikanth said all aspects (of branding and ownership) are part of the discussions.

Last July, RIL hived off the company-owned fuel retail outlets and merged them with its organized retail arm as part of a strategy to expand retail offerings at petrol pumps.

During the second quarter of this fiscal, RIL’s revenue from the retail segment grew 81.3% on year to Rs14,646 crore. “The increase in turnover was led by growth in digital, fashion and lifestyle and petroleum products," RIL said in its second-quarter earnings statement on 13 October.

London-based BP had bought a 30% stake in 21 oil and gas production-sharing contracts operated by RIL for $7.2 billion in February 2011.

RIL and BP are also partners in India Gas Solutions, an equal joint venture for sourcing and marketing of gas in the country.

In January, BP was given in-principle approval to sell aviation turbine fuel in India. To get a licence to retail auto fuel, a firm should have a minimum investment of Rs2,000 crore in exploration or production, refining, gas or product pipeline, or terminals.

“BP meets this criteria. Besides, India is an attractive market for international players as it is one of few the destinations that is seeing growth in terms of petroleum consumption. We see the participation from international players only increasing going forward," said an executive director from one of the state-run oil marketing firms on the condition of anonymity.

India has around 57,000 petrol pumps. The majority are owned by the state-run Indian Oil Corp. Ltd, Hindustan Petroleum Corp. Ltd and Bharat Petroleum Corp. Ltd. Private sector operators include RIL, Royal Dutch Shell and Rosneft (the erstwhile Essar Oil).

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