Shell examines Panna, Mukta and Tapti

Vol 4, PW 21 (22 Nov 00) Exploration & Production

Market gossip suggests three foreign companies, three Indian state-owned companies and one private sector company are in the race to acquire Enron's 30% stake in the Panna, Mukta and Tapti assets offshore Mumbai.

They are: Cairn Energy, Shell, British Gas, ONGC, Indian Oil Corporation, Hindustan Petroleum, and Reliance. Cairn is the only one to categorically deny interest.

"We might have looked at it for a day!" quips a company source, "But it's not for us, there are too many related issues." Related issues For those who don't know, these include allegations of widescale corruption, relentlessly pursued through the courts, a damaging arbitration matter, and more. A senior Shell executive refuses to confirm or deny interest, but his ambivalence raises more questions than answers.

Petrowatch has good reason to believe Shell is interested, and that the three assets are under evaluation by its technical experts in Houston. British Gas, one of the original bidders in 1994, is equally shy: "We are exploring upstream assets in India," confirms the company, "I can't say more than that." Unlikely is that the Indian state-owned companies have a serious chance.

Which leaves Reliance, a company that never comments on speculation. It is widely known Reliance wants operatorship of the three assets - the market thinks it also wants to acquire Enron's 30% stake.

Whether it will pay the reported $800m Enron is asking for is another matter.

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