India's Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd (BPCL) will import 10,000 barrels per day of crude from Malaysia's state-run oil firm Petronas and expects the first shipment next month, a senior company official said yesterday.

"We have signed a contract for half-a-million tonnes. It was signed on July 29 in Kuala Lumpur. It is going through government approvals," Ashok Sinha, director, finance, for the state-controlled refiner, told Reuters in Bangalore.

The contract is for the financial year up to March 2003 and ispart of the 140,000 bpd of crude, including 90,000 bpd from term contracts, Bharat Petroleum has said it expected to import.

"The first cargo should be next month," said Sinha, who was speaking on the sidelines of a function to launch "Speed", a branded petrol the refiner is launching as it braces for a new eraof intense competition.

BPCL's shares plunged 20 per cent yesterday in India's premier Bombay stock market as the government at the weekend deferred by three months a plan to privatise BPCL and fellow refiner Hindustan Petroleum Corp through a strategic stake sale.