Sir John Browne set to visit India on 13th October

Vol 9, PW 11 (08 Sep 05) People & Policy

BP is at last waking up to the potential of India, with a landmark visit planned next month by chairman Sir John Browne.

No confirmed dates for Brownes visit are available, but we understand his office is examining the 13th and 14th October. A meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is tentatively scheduled for 14th October.

During his two-day visit, Browne hopes to meet Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani, Tata Group boss Ratan Tata, ONGC chairman Subir Raha, Indian Oil chairman Sarthak Behuria, Bharat Petroleum chairman Ashok Sinha and Hindustan Petroleum chairman Mahesh Lal. Browne begins his visit in Mumbai and ends it in Delhi, where hell most likely be staying at the Maurya Sheraton.

Ashok K. Jhawar, Country Head India for BP, talks down speculation that Browne is coming to sign a deal.

This is his first official visit to India, Jhawar tells us. Two years ago he went for a holiday in Kerala.

But it was only for three days. It was not a working visit.

Adds Jhawar: This visit is to build the confidence of BPs board that India is a good investment destination. India is competing with other investment opportunities for BP.

Will Browne be convinced China is more important to BP than India. Browne visits China at least twice a year, admits Jhawar.

Board meetings are normally held in London but this year BP board held a board meeting in Beijing. In China, BP has invested up to $5bn in chemical plants, a chain of petrol stations, two LPG terminals inherited from Arco and Amoco and a LNG terminal under construction at Guangdong.

In India its total investment is a meagre $900m, mostly through Castrol, its lubricants business, and Tata BP solar, a renewable energy business. That could change if Browne - widely perceived as indifferent to India backs several new initiatives pursued by his team on the ground.