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HPCL, BPCL say strike has not hurt supplies
March 26, 2003 16:09 IST
Indian state-run oil giants HPCL and BPCL reported on Wednesday no supply disruptions as result of a two-day-old strike by workers opposing privatisation of the refiners.
The workers at Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd and Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd, which control 40 per cent of the $15 billion domestic retail oil market, began the planned three-day walkout on Tuesday to protest the sell-off.
"The impact of the strike is zero," said an HPCL official. A BPCL official also said there were no supply disruptions.
Management employees were filling in for absent workers and both companies had taken steps earlier to deal with the strike.
But there were some reports of disruptions. "Diesel supplies ran out yesterday as tankers are not resupplying. We expect unleaded petrol to run out by Thursday," said N K Sinha, a manager at a Kolkata petrol pump selling HPCL products. "This strike is hurting our sales."
The refiners' shares, however, were steady as investors remained confident the strike would not affect government plans to privatise the cash-rich companies by October at the latest.
HPCL was up 0.4 per cent at Rs 299 in afternoon trade, while BPCL was flat at Rs 223, broadly in line with the Bombay Stock Exchange's benchmark index.
The Centre of Indian Trade Unions or CITU, one of the unions spearheading the walkout, said 90 per cent of the companies' 16,500 unionised staff workers had heeded the strike call.
But BPCL said only 40 to 50 per cent of its 8,900 unionised staff workers were absent. HPCL said 1,000 of its 7,600 unionised staff workers had turned up.
Analysts say union resistance is unlikely to block the sales as they believe the ruling Hindu nationalist-led Bharatiya Janata Party coalition wants to show it is serious about economic reform ahead of general elections due in 2004.
The government plans to sell a controlling 34 per cent stake in HPCL to a strategic partner and shed majority control in BPCL with a public issue of 35 per cent of the company.
The unions accuse the government of jeopardising India's energy security by selling off the companies and say they may launch a longer strike if the sell-offs are not abandoned.
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