BG's unfriendly dataroom for Gujarat Gas bidders

Vol 15, PW 16 (23 Feb 12) People & Policy

British Gas is not only asking too much for its 65.12% stake in Gujarat Gas, say some, it is also making life miserable for potential bidders.

Described “as tedious beyond belief”, BG’s opaque ‘virtual dataroom’ is so difficult to navigate that bidder discontent has forced BG to extend the bid submission deadline from February 29 to March 15. Frustrated companies say they must plough through hundreds of documents without any human interaction or assistance.

Data can be accessed only through a complicated website, which can be opened on a single designated computer at each bidder’s office using a complicated alphanumeric password. “BG has set up the 'virtual dataroom' very badly,” complains one company.

“But there’s no other way to get queries answered.” Another bidder criticises BG for uploading a mass of irrelevant information.

“I have to sort through a field of documents for each query,” he says. “BG has uploaded over 2000 documents and I must go through each of them in detail!” Among the uploaded documents are five industrial contracts, running to over 50 pages each.

“Reading these alone is a major exercise,” says a Torrent source. A GSPC Gas source adds: “When we asked someone at BG to tell us if there is any difference between the five industrial contracts, he just said, ‘read them yourself.

’” A dismayed bidder says it is impossible to read all the documents. “We’re struggling to pick out relevant information,” he says.

Eight bidders have access to BG’s ‘virtual dataroom’: Adani Gas; Torrent; Oil India; Germany’s E.ON; a consortium of GSPC, Bharat Petroleum and ONGC; and three private equity firms in the UK and US.

Before gaining access, each bidder had to get a security certificate, install special software, and undergo a verification process.