Vol 3, PW 16 (01 Sep 99) Exploration & Production

Exactly 27 months after it first announced a New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP) in parliament on 18th March 1997, the Indian government on 18th August took receipt of 45 bids for 27 blocks.

A total of 21 blocks received no bids. More surprising than the list of companies that bid (see table below) is the list of companies that did not bid.

Shell, Woodside Petroleum, Unocal, and Maersk were strongly tipped by this report to take part but ultimately decided to stay away, despite investing large sums of money for the purchase of data. Their reasons: a shrinking exploration budget set last year, when oil prices were at an all time low, and better opportunities in other parts of the world.

Only Enron (alone); Cairn (alone for one block and with Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation for two others); Gazprom (with GAIL); and Petronas of Malaysia (with IOC) figure among the prominent foreign companies to have bid. The other - less familiar - foreign companies to bid are: Grynberg Petroleum (alone); Niko Resources (with Reliance); and South Asia Oil & Gas of Australia (alone).

Mosbacher of the US and Energy Equity Corporation of Australia (both in alliance with Hindustan Oil Exploration) also bid, making a total of nine foreign companies. As expected, local Indian companies put in the maximum number of bids, with ONGC bidding for a total of 16 concessions, some alone, some with either GAIL or IOC, but astonishingly, none with a foreign partner.

Reliance surprised everybody by putting in a total of 14 bids, all in alliance with Niko Resources of Canada.