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Indonesian Pertamina's Feb planned imports at 9-10 mil barrels; lower from Jan: sources

Singapore — Indonesia's state-owned Pertamina is expected to import around 9 million-10 million barrels of gasoline in February 2019, down from the estimated 10 million-11 million barrels in January, market sources said.

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Although higher from February 2018, Pertamina's lower import volumes in February, compared with January, will likely exert downward pressure on the Asian gasoline market. Despite a slight rebound at the start of the year, the market has remained weak due to high inventories in Singapore and Fujairah in January.

Gasoline stocks in the US in particular, had reached a two-year high of 255.57 million barrels in the week ending January 11, according to data from the US Energy Information Administration.

Stocks of light distillate in Singapore also hit a record high of 16.1 million barrels in the week ending January 2, while in the Middle East, Fujairah's commercial stockpiles of light distillate as of January 14 came in at 10.318 million barrels, the third highest level recorded since S&P Global Platts began publishing Fujairah stock data in 2017.

Notably, some participants had already anticipated import volumes from the region's largest buyer of gasoline to taper in February.

"Even though Indonesia's demand in February will likely be lower, it is normal as February is generally a shorter trading month. It has been made even shorter this year with the celebration of the Lunar New Year," one Singapore-based market observer said.

Indonesia imported 6.8 million barrels of gasoline in February 2018, around one-third lower than the 10.5 million barrels the company had imported in January 2018, according to data from Statistics Indonesia.

Market watchers also noted that Pertamina's appetite in the spot market for February had shifted towards gasoline of lower octane grades, although they were unable to provide a breakdown of volumes by octane grades for February.

"If Pertamina is to issue another spot tender for the second half of February, it will likely be for 88 RON gasoline. Their requirement for higher RON grades such as 92 RON and 98 RON gasoline seem to have already been filled by their term tenders," another source added.

In that regard, Pertamina issued two tenders on the spot market for 88 RON gasoline for loading over late-January and February, based on open tenders seen by Platts.

In one, Pertamina sought a total of 480,000 barrels of 88 RON gasoline in three cargoes of various sizes for loading over early-February. The tender was heard to have been awarded at a discount of around $1.50/b to the Mean of Platts Singapore 92 RON gasoline assessments on an FOB basis.

In the other tender, the oil and gas company sought a total of 200,000 barrels of 88 RON gasoline in two parcels of 100,000 barrels each for loading from Singapore/Malaysia or delivery to Indonesia over late-January to early-February. The tender closed on January 2, with validity until January 4. Results of the tender could not be confirmed.

Pertamina has not been seen on the spot market seeking gasoline of higher octane grades for February.

--Mark Tan, mark.tan@spglobal.com

--Edited by Norazlina Juma'at, norazlina.jumaat@spglobal.com