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India Refiner Stocks Gain on Plan for Levy on Income (Update2)
May, 28th 2008

Indian Oil Corp., the nation's biggest refiner, and its state-run counterparts rose in Mumbai trading after the government said it may consider charging a levy on income tax to partly recover losses from selling fuels below cost.

India will take a decision on fuel prices soon, S. Sundareshan, additional secretary in the Oil Ministry, said today. Officials of the oil and finance ministries discussed increasing prices, rationalizing duties and oil bonds.

Asia's third-biggest economy caps fuel prices to soften the impact of rising oil on inflation that is running at a 3 1/2-year high. India imports 70 percent of its oil requirement and crude accounts for a third of the country's import bill.

``Indian oil companies have needed this boost for a long time now,'' said Ballabh Modani, a Mumbai-based analyst at Enam Securities Pvt. ``The government has waited too long already and even now there's no indication that the main problem of subsidizing prices will be corrected.''

Shares of Indian Oil gained 1.8 percent to close at 421.55 rupees in Mumbai. Bharat Petroleum Corp., the second-largest Indian refiner, rose 0.6 percent to 349.9 rupees and Hindustan Petroleum Corp. climbed 2.5 percent to 246.6 rupees. India's benchmark Sensitive Index fell for the fourth day today, declining 0.5 percent to a six-week low.

Modani, who recommends investors buy shares of state-run refiners, said he is reviewing ratings. Refiners are losing as much as 6 billion rupees a day from selling fuel below cost, the Economic Times reported on May 24.

Oil prices in New York have doubled since last year and reached a record $135.09 a barrel on May 22. The South Asian nation raised fuel prices in February after a gap of 20 months. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government and its communist allies are reluctant to increase fuel prices with elections due by May 2009.

Refiners' losses from selling fuel below cost widened to 2.05 trillion rupees ($48 billion), B. Mukherjee, finance director at Hindustan Petroleum, India's third-biggest refiner, said on May 23.

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