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The Central Government has withdrawn an offer to sell its entire 53% stake in state-owned refiner Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL), saying that majority of the bidders have expressed inability to participate in the privatisation.

The decision on the re-initiation of the strategic disinvestment process of BPCL will be taken in due course based on review of the situation.

The Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM) said the multiple coronavirus waves and geopolitical conditions affected industries globally, particularly the oil and gas industry.

"Owing to prevailing conditions in the global energy market, the majority of QIPs (qualified interested parties) have expressed their inability to continue in the current process of disinvestment of BPCL," it said.

In view of this, the group of ministers on disinvestment has decided to call off the present EoI process for the strategic disinvestment of BPCL and the EoIs received from QIPs shall stand cancelled, DIPAM said.

There was only one potential buyer left in the fray for purchasing the government’s 53% holding in the company.

The government didn't want to proceed with a single bidder. It will rework the sale but won’t sell a smaller stake.

The planned sale, which could have potentially been the country’s biggest privatization, had attracted interest from three suitors -- the Vedanta group, Apollo Global Management Inc. and I Squared Capital Advisors. 

While Vedanta’s billionaire founder Anil Agarwal was willing to spend about $12 billion for acquiring BPCL, the others backed out amid oil price volatility and uncertainty over local fuel pricing.

The Modi government had announced the sale in 2019 as it sought to raise record funds by offering majority stakes in state-owned companies to boost a slowing economy. 

India will not rush into selling BPCL if it ends up with a lone suitor, the nation’s top bureaucrat overseeing asset sales had said in February.

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