Govt to decide on Cairn-Vedanta deal by Feb-end

Govt to decide on Cairn-Vedanta deal by Feb-end

UK-based Cairn Energy had on November 25 applied for government nod to transfer control in its three producing assets, including the Rajasthan fields, to Vedanta Resources.

The government will decide on giving approval to the $9.6 billion Cairn -Vedanta deal by February-end, Oil Secretary S Sundareshan has said on Monday.

"I had earlier given a timeline of December-end (for deciding on giving approval to Vedanta Resources , buying majority stake in Cairn India) on the presumption that it will take 2-3 months to process (the case) from the date we get all applications. But given that we have got the application (seeking approval) only last week, we will certainly be able to decide on the case by February-end," he said here.

After months of dithering, UK's Cairn Energy on November 25 applied for government nod to transfer control in its three producing assets, including the prolific Rajasthan fields , to Vedanta Resources.

Sundareshan said the oil ministry had told Cairn it would have to apply for approval in all of its 10 assets for the government to consider giving consent to the deal.

Three separate applications were made for the Barmer oil fields in Rajasthan, the eastern offshore Ravva oil and gas fields and the Cambay fields off the west coast, which had previously been omitted from the applications for government approval.

"Yes, we have got the applications in last 2-3 days," Sundareshan said.

Cairn Energy had on August 16 announced sale of 40-51 per cent stake in its Indian unit to London-listed Vedanta, but has been selective in approaching government for approval for the deal.

The applications stated the company's legal advisors had stated the consent of the government was not required for transfer of control in a company holding interest in the three blocks that were awarded prior to advent of the New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP).

NELP explicitly has such provisions and so Cairn had sought government nod for seven exploration acreage it has.

Cairn in its application last week had stated it was applying for the government consent on being asked to do so by the oil ministry, which backed its claim for prior approval based on an opinion by the law ministry.

Sundareshan said the law ministry has backed oil ministry's contention that Cairn needs government approval in all of it 10 blocks.

The law ministry has given the opinion that the transaction is nothing but transfer of control in all the 10 properties held by Cairn India and so requires government consent and trigger pre-emption or right of first refusal (ROFR) of Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) that partners the company in all the three producing properties and several of exploration acreage.