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Pertamina seeks to defer gasoline imports as coronavirus hits demand

An Aerial view of PT Pertamina refinery Plaju in Palembang

JAKARTA/SINGAPORE (Reuters) - State-owned Pertamina, Asia's biggest gasoline importer, is in talks with suppliers to defer petrol imports in April as Jakarta's measures to fight the coronavirus has hit demand for its fuel, a company spokeswoman said.

Indonesia has joined other countries in imposing restrictions on people's movements to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, bringing traffic to a standstill and hitting fuel consumption.

The cargoes are "postponed until we need it again" depending on demand, Pertamina's spokeswoman Fajriyah Usman told Reuters, adding that the company was also trying to manage its fuel through storage.

She said sellers should agree to let Indonesia postpone imports at time when global demand has been hit.

The country's gasoline imports have fallen by about half of their average monthly total in 2019 of 1.2 million tonnes of gasoline (333,333 barrels per day), Refinitiv Oil Research.<GL-ID-IMP-TOT> showed.

"Indonesia gasoline imports could be about 100,000 to 150,000 barrels per day lower in April year-on-year," said Matthew Chew of IHS Markit.

A source said Pertamina was planning refinery run cuts as Indonesia's fuel consumption has nearly halved while storage space was limited.

Pertamina buys gasoline from trading companies including Singapore-based Hin Leong and Aramco Trading Co.

Indonesia's fuel stockpiles have also risen close to levels before major festivals such as Ramadan and Eid, indicating ample supplies.

Pertamina's gasoline stocks can last over 22 days, Pertamina said in a statement on April 3.

The Pertamax Turbo brand, a 98-octane grade, can last for 42 days while kerosene stocks are enough for 89 days, Pertamina said in the statement.

Pertamina's gasoil stocks on the other hand are sufficient for more than 24 days, with "Pertamina Dex", with cetane number 53, is enough for more than 53 days, the company said.

Pertamina also said that since a working-from-home rule was implemented in mid-March, daily fuel sales have been declining by about 16% to 113,000 kilolitres (kl) from the usual 134,000 kl.

But demand for LPG is still growing, with sufficient supplies to last for 16 days, the company said.

(Reporting by Wilda Asmarini, Seng Li Peng and Florence Tan. Editing by Jane Merriman)