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Centre mulls splitting GAIL (India) to hive off pipeline business

Tuesday, 16 Jul 2019
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The Central government is mulling over to split GAIL (India) by hiving off its pipeline business into a separate entity. It is also considering to sell off the pipeline business to strategic investors.

Users of natural gas have often complained about not getting access to GAIL's 11,551 km pipeline network to transport their own fuel. In order to resolve the conflict arising out of the same entity owning the two jobs, bifurcating GAIL is being considered.

While previously selling of the marketing business, possibly to another state-owned firm, was being considered, the government is now mulling on hiving off the pipelines into a separate entity and selling off a majority stake in it. GAIL (India) has multiple long-term contracts to import gas in its liquid form, liquefied natural gas (LNG) from countries such as the USA.

GAIL (India) will continue with the marketing business that will include all the sale contracts as also city gas retailing. The pipeline business can be spun off into a separate company, where the government may divest a majority stake to a strategic investor such as Canadian asset management company Brookfield that recently bought a 1,480 km pipeline owned by Reliance Industries (RIL).

The strategic partner will operate the pipelines and give access on a non-discriminatory basis to any entity wanting to transport gas either from a natural gas field or an LNG import terminal to consumers. The Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) and the Bharat Petroleum Corporation (BPCL) had in 2017 evinced interest in acquiring GAIL (India) to expand their gas marketing business. GAIL (India) also owns a petrochemical plant at Pata in Uttar Pradesh, which too could be sold to either IOC or BPCL.

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