Reliance wants Kurdistan deal kept secret from OVL

Vol 9, PW 25 (06 Apr 06) People & Policy

Reliance is taking great pains to ensure that no information about its Kurdish deal leaks before the PSCs are signed, particularly to ONGC Videsh.

These days OVL has been cutting or trying to cut Reliance out of almost every overseas deal, we hear. Reliance believes this might happen here also.

Within Reliances overseas division, instructions have been issued from top management to accord top priority and utmost secrecy to sorting out all issues and quickly sign PSCs for the two Kurdish blocks. One incident in particular has left Reliance wary of OVL.

In Egypt, OVL partners US company IPR. OVL snatched the block and the partner away from Reliance, says an industry source.

IPR was originally to partner Reliance. On the last date for sending in bids, Reliance was shocked to discover that IPR had deserted it and gone to OVL.

Later on, we hear, IPR executives apologised to Reliance and said they were under a lot of pressure from Delhi to go with OVL in Egypt. Brazils offshore block BC-10 is another block that Reliance was interested in.

But here again OVL moved in. Reliance watchers say OVLs rivalry with Reliance was most evident during the reign of former oil minister Mani Shankar Aiyar.

Aiyar made it clear to OVL that Reliance should not be allowed to get any overseas acreage, we are told. He was very anti-Reliance and the feeling was mutual.

Still unclear is what position Aiyars successor Murli Deora will take but its an open secret that he has close relations with the Ambani family and that both Mukesh and Anil Ambani still address him as Uncle. Family ties apart, it makes perfect geopolitical sense for Delhi to support Reliances Kurdish deal.

India does not want to be seen to be too close to the US-backed regime in Kurdistan, we are told. If anything goes wrong and the deal blows up, India can always turn around and say it had no part to play in a contract by a private company.

Adds our source: If the deal goes through and conditions settle down Delhi can send OVL to sign up other blocks there.