Tripathi extension depends on IL&FS wind deal

Vol 22, PW 12 (04 Apr 19) People & Policy

GAIL chairman BC Tripathi has been promised a two-year extension instead of just six months on condition he completes the acquisition of debt-laden IL&FS' wind power business.

GAIL insiders stress to this report that despite doubts Tripathi received clearance from the anti-corruption Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) last week. Two GAIL sources tell us oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan has promised Tripathi a six-month extension until retirement in January 2020, followed by three sets of six-month extensions, adding up to a total two-year extension.

"It's only a matter of time before this (Tripathi's extension) comes through on paper," confides a GAIL source. He adds however that a clear condition is for Tripathi to complete the acquisition of the wind power business from IL&FS, a leading Indian infrastructure finance company close to Narendra Modi which the government wants to revive.

"GAIL was the only bidder," we hear. "All the other bidders pulled out".

Among other companies reportedly interested were NTPC and Sydney-based Macquarie. GAIL decided to bid for the project during a Board meeting in February (2019).

"But the acquisition is still pending," we hear. "Approval is awaited from both the IL&FS and GAIL Boards; this is expected by end-April or early May".

Another source speculates the deal will close at anything between Rs500cr-Rs1000cr ($72m-$144m). Tripathi, he adds, apparently told GAIL officers what price they should offer over the phone, "while waiting for a flight at the airport".