Lobbying to replace Mathur as MD at Petronet-LNG

Vol 8, PW 20 (12 Jan 05) People & Policy

Intense lobbying has begun in Delhis corridors of power for the job of managing director at Petronet-LNG to replace Suresh Mathur when he completes his extended two-year term on 31st March.

Mathur was appointed managing director in 1998 for five years to March 2003, after retiring as director finance at Indian Oil. In 2003 his term was extended by two years.

Several big names from state-owned oil companies are competing to succeed him, attracted by Petronet-LNGs new high-profile status as owner of Indias first operational LNG import terminal and the companys successful maiden share float last year. Among the contenders is Indian Oil chairman MS Ramachandran and directors P Sugavanam and PK Agarwal.

Ramachandran retires from IOC on 28th February, Sugavanam on 30th June and Agarwal on 31st July 2005 all aged 60. All three are eligible for the job because theres no retirement age for directors of a non-government company like Petronet-LNG.

Also in the race is ONGC director exploration YB Sinha who will complete his five-year term in May 2005. Sinha, however, denies he is in the race.

If Im offered the job Ill say no, he said. Any aspirant will have to contend with Suresh Mathur himself, who is keen to stay on for another five years.

As a non-government owned company, directors at Petronet-LNG are selected through a search committee, which includes the chairman and managing directors of the four promoter companies: Indian Oil, ONGC, GAIL and BPCL. The search committee must hold interviews and shortlist two candidates, one of who is chosen by the board of directors.

Nobody can directly come in by nomination as in PSUs, says an industry source. Even candidates from the private sector can apply.

However, pressure can be exerted in other ways. Oil secretary Sushil Tripathi is chairman of Petronet-LNG and can influence the choice of any replacement.