Australian envoy insists Dart has no Chinese links

Vol 15, PW 24 (14 Jun 12) People & Policy

Australia’s High Commissioner to India Peter N.

Varghese is determined to set the record straight about Brisbane-headquartered CBM producer Dart Energy. In particular that Dart is not controlled by Chinese interests.

Such conspiracy theories are believed to have led the oil ministry last month to reject a proposal from Dart to acquire up to 35% stake at four ONGC CBM blocks: Jharia, Bokaro, North Karanpura, and Raniganj North. Incensed, Varghese wrote to oil secretary Girish Chaturvedi on June 1.

“I understand there has been some confusion regarding Dart’s status following its de-merger from Arrow Energy in August 2010,” writes Varghese, “with a recent media report claiming Dart has Chinese equity.” Varghese stresses that Dart is a publicly owned company traded on the Australian Stock Exchange and part of the ASX200 Index.

“Dart has forwarded to your ministry its entire shareholder register with details of its 14,800 shareholders.” Varghese admits Dart has a presence in China in addition to its interests in India, Indonesia and Europe, but says this is irrelevant.

He asks the ministry to reconsider Dart’s proposal for the ONGC blocks and hints that unwanted slurs might prompt the company to exit India. “Dart has a wealth of CBM technology and expertise,” we learn.

“It would be a missed opportunity for the Indian exploration and energy sector if Dart withdraws.” Arrow Energy’s Australian business holdings were acquired by a joint venture of Shell (50%) and PetroChina (50%) in August 2010.

Arrow’s overseas assets, including those in India, were spun off into Dart Energy. No link exists between Arrow and Dart yet PetroChina’s involvement in Arrow is creating paranoia among Indian bureaucrats, haunted by memories of the bloody Sino-Indian war in 1962.