Gas stations keep hoping for price hike

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Fuel retailers continued to withhold sales even though officials have said there is no price hike to wait for.

Petrolimex, Vietnam's top fuel importer and distributor, imported 3.7 million tons of oil products in the first four months, out of 5.5 million tons it has contracted to buy in the first half of this year, Chief Executive Bui Ngoc Bao said.

The imported volume is enough to supply for a demand growth of 17 percent in the domestic market, he said.

Bao said fuel importers can loan dollars quite easily from banks and they do not have any difficulties buying oil products from abroad.

Some retailers, however, have cut back on selling as they believe fuel prices will be hiked soon, he said.

Across the Mekong Delta, many gas stations have withheld sales or even ceased operations for the past few weeks.

A gas station in Ho Chi Minh City's District 1 said it had to shut down on Wednesday morning after running out of stock. 

But fuel distributor Saigon Petro, which supplies the station, insisted that supply was ensured for all fuel retailers.

Dang Vinh Sang, general director of Saigon Petro, said even though commissions for retailers have been cut down to VND200 per liter from VND500-600, it was fuel importers who are in a more serious situation. "We (fuel importers) are incurring a loss of VND1,200 per liter," Sang said.

The Ministry of Industry and Trade last week rejected recent rumors of a petrol price hike, saying that it would impose strict penalties on retailers trying to withhold sales.

Nguyen Loc An, deputy head of the Domestic Market Department at the Ministry of Industry and Trade, confirmed with Thanh Nien this week that the authorities do not have any plans to raise petrol prices at the moment.

He said the ministry is strengthening market supervision and has ordered petrol companies to ensure stable supply.

Vietnam raised fuel prices by 10 percent on March 29, after an 18 percent hike on February 24. A liter of petrol now retails at VND 21,300 and a liter of diesel at VND 21,000.

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