Balyan's Reliance move triggers P-LNG debate

Vol 18, PW 24 (30 Jul 15) People & Policy

AK Balyan's move to join Anil Ambani-led Reliance as its Delhi-based oil and gas CEO has revived the debate over whether Petronet-LNG is a government or private company.

Balyan, who retired as Petronet-LNG chief on July 15, officially announced he had joined Reliance on July 25. Yet guidelines issued by the Department of Public Enterprises make it mandatory for directors and chairmen of state-owned companies to wait a year before joining a private company in the same business.

"But is Petronet-LNG a government company?" questions a company source. Petronet-LNG is publicly listed on the BSE but its four largest shareholders are state-owned ONGC, GAIL, IndianOil and Bharat Petroleum, each holding 12.5%.

"Because of this people think Petronet-LNG is state-owned," we hear. "And the oil secretary is company chairman!" Adding fuel to the fire is a ministry announcement on April 27 alleging irregularities at Petronet-LNG are being investigated by a government committee in consultation with the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC).

If Petronet-LNG is a private company, ask observers, why is the CVC involved? Another 50% of Petronet-LNG is shared between private investors including Gaz de France which has 10%. "The perception may be state owned but technically Petronet-LNG is a private company," says a former company MD.

"Balyan needn't worry. Anyway he's smart; he wouldn't break any rules."