New Delhi: Fuel retailer IOC has for the second year in a row beaten ONGC to become India's most profitable state-owned company, raising questions over calls for the explorer to subsidise retailers amid soaring petrol and diesel rates.
Indian Oil Corporation, which has for decades been India's biggest company by turnover, last week posted a record net profit of Rs 21,346 crore in the fiscal year ended March 31, 2018 (FY 2017-18), up 12 percent from Rs 19,106 crore in the last fiscal.
Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) yesterday reported its FY18 numbers - 11.4 percent rise in net profit to Rs 19,945 crore.
Billionaire Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries retained the crown of being India's most profitable company for the third year in a row, posting highest ever net profit of Rs 36,075 crore.
Tata Consultancy Services, India's largest software services exporter, with a net profit of Rs 25,880 crore was the second most profitable company in the country.
ONGC was for long India's most profitable company but lost the crown to private sector Reliance and TCS three years back. In fact, its profit was higher than the combined net profit of the three state-owned fuel retailers - IOC, Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd (HPCL) and Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd (BPCL) but now it is behind IOC.
For 2017-18, HPCL last week reported its highest ever net profit of Rs 6,357 crore on a turnover of Rs 2.43 lakh crore. BPCL earlier this week reported a net profit of Rs 7,919 crore for the fiscal.
The sustained profitability of the refining and marketing companies has led to some questioning the rationale of asking ONGC to subsidise fuel that IOC, BPCL and HPCL sell.
"Look at their profits. They don't need any subsidy support," said a senior ONGC official.
"We are in the capital-intensive business of oil and gas exploration and production which has to be necessarily funded through internal accruals. Unlike refiners, we cannot get loans for risk E&P business," he said.
ONGC is investing Rs 30,000 crore to Rs 35,000 crore annually, which cannot be sustained if it is again asked to subsidise fuel, he insisted.
Upstream oil producers, ONGC and Oil India Ltd had until June 2015 provided for up to 40 percent of the annual fuel subsidy bill.
This they did this by way of providing discounts on crude sold to downstream refining and marketing companies, IOC, BPCL, and HPCL. This discount helped the retailers make good a part of the losses they incurred on selling petrol and diesel below cost.
The idea of upstream producers again subsidising fuel has been mooted after petrol and diesel prices earlier this week hit a record high of Rs 78.43 per litre and Rs 69.31 respectively. Rates have since marginally cooled but the threat still remains.