Union Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Murli Deora on Wednesday asserted that interests of Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) would be fully protected while considering the application for acquisition of Cairn India by Anil Aggarwal-owned Vedanta Group.
Interacting with newsmen at the Economic Editors Conference here, Mr. Deora said the deal was being processed and there was no way the government was going to sacrifice or compromise on ONGC's interests. At present the matter was under consideration and I would not like to comment on the issue.
Speaking on the occasion, Petroleum Secretary S. Sundareshan said the government was now deciding on the jurisdiction issue in consultation with the Law Ministry. “Once the jurisdiction issue is resolved, we will come to the merit of the issue,'' he said. The Petroleum Ministry has maintained that Cairn Energy, which had on August 16 announced the sale of 40 to 51 per cent stake in Cairn India to Vedanta for $8.48 billion, has to seek specific approval for transfer of control in each of the ten properties it has in India.
On its part, Cairn Energy had in mid-September applied for specific approvals in seven exploration blocks it had won under the New Exploration Licensing Round (NELP) since 1999 and sought an overarching consent in the case of its three pre-NELP producing properties including the giant Rajasthan fields as contracts for them do not have specific prior-approval clause.
Mr. Sundareshan said Cairn must seek approval in all blocks and this was the jurisdiction issue that was being sorted out. “We are completely neutral to the Cairn-Vedanta deal. The government has no particular views on the merit of the deal. The government will decide on the issue by December end,'' he added. ONGC, which holds 30 per cent interest in Cairn India's showpiece Rajasthan oilfields, had written to Cairn Energy stating that Cairn would require its permission before sale of stake to Vedanta, he said. “So far no response has been received from Carin. There is no delay on our part. Cairn applied for government approval only a few weeks ago. The application is being examined by the Petroleum Ministry and the Directorate General of Hydrocarbons. Companies investing in India had a right to exit and that right is well recognised,'' he said.