OPIC meets Reliance, Shell, BP and BG for Dabhol

Vol 7, PW 22 (28 Jan 04) People & Policy

US government agency Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) has finally succeeded in breaking the Dabhol deadlock.

It came on 15th January in Mumbai, the last day of OPIC's three-day India visit. On this day, senior OPIC officials held separate meetings with the heads of five companies interested in buying the Dabhol Power Company and were pleasantly surprised by the response.

PETROWATCH has detailed information on the meetings held throughout the day at the Oberoi hotel in Mumbai. First on the list to meet OPIC vice-president Robert Drumheller and general counsel Geoffrey Anderson was Reliance Energy (formerly BSES) chairman Anil Ambani and his finance man Amitabh Jhunjhunwala.

After formalities, Drumheller asked whether Reliance was interested in buying Dabhol. In his usual style, Ambani smiled and countered: Why are we having these meetings Just put it on sale and we will bid! Needless to say, OPIC officials were happy with this positive start after three years of bad blood.

Next in the queue was a team from the Tata Power Company and BP. Both companies have an exclusive agreement to bid for DPC if it comes up for sale.

TPC managing director Firdose Vandrevala and BP Indias vice president Sashi Mukundan voiced their views and fears about any future DPC sale. They did not make a fuss, says our source.

Their main concern was completion of the power plant and knowing how much further investment would be needed. Post-lunch, OPIC met British Gas India CEO Nigel Shaw.

OPICs luck continued as Shaw too expressed BGs readiness to bid for the jinxed plant. Shaw told OPIC that India and not China was BGs investment destination, reveals a source.

He said BG was a serious player in Indias natural gas market and is interested in DPCs assets. OPICs last meeting of the day was with Shell Indias chairman Vikram Singh Mehta.

Like Ambani, Mehta gave a patient hearing to OPIC and then wrapped up with a flourish: Dont ask any more questions, he said. We are interested and thats final.