June 4, 2020 / 8:30 AM / a month ago

BPCL sees gasoline, diesel demand returning to pre-Covid levels in July

CHENNAI/BENGALURU (Reuters) - India’s gasoline and diesel demand is expected to return to pre-lockdown levels in July, an executive at the country’s second largest fuel retailer Bharat Petroleum Corp said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: A Bharat Petroleum oil pump station displays the price of unleaded petrol (0.89$) and Diesel (0.66$) as a pedestrian walks past in New Delhi, India, February 3, 2016. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi/File Photo

“The current demand for petrol and diesel is at 70% of levels seen before the lockdown,” Vijayagopal N, director of finance at BPCL, said in a call with analysts on Thursday.

Demand was recovering more quickly for gasoline than for diesel, he said, adding that it would take longer for consumption of other crude products such as bitumen and jet fuel to return to levels seen before the pandemic struck.

Analysts have said they expect a full recovery in demand for oil products to pre-COVID-19 levels in India to be months away, as manufacturing activities remain low and transportation demand takes a hit in some areas from the ongoing monsoon season.

India, the world’s third biggest oil consumer, imports about 84% of its oil requirements. Some 60% of its needs are shipped from the Middle East, with Latin America and Africa other major supplying regions.

With China’s oil demand recovering to over 90% of levels seen before the coronavirus struck early this year, a potential consumption recovery in India - the world’s third largest crude importer - would be good news for oil-producing countries.

Both Brent crude and U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude (WTI) prices have risen sharply in recent weeks from their April lows, with demand picking up as more countries emerge from lockdowns.

Diesel sales by Indian state-run fuel retailers in May were down about 31%, while gasoline sales dropped by 36%. In April, the country’s gasoline sales were 60.6% lower, while diesel sales dropped 55.6%.

BPCL reported its biggest loss in years after market hours on Wednesday. Shares opened lower, but pared losses to trade marginally higher at 350.30 rupees ($4.64) on Thursday afternoon.

($1 = 75.4860 Indian rupees)

Reporting by Sudarshan Varadhan; Editing by Jan Harvey

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