Vol 3, PW 6 (14 Apr 99) Exploration & Production

Among small to medium-sized oil companies, British Borneo has a perceived reputation for expertise in deepwater exploration and production.

Its a reputation that has not escaped the attention of ONGC. Information received by this report indicates ONGC wants to talk to British Borneo about a possible joint bid for deepwater blocks auctioned under NELP.

No formal approach has been made, but Petrowatch understands that efforts to convey ONGCs interest in a dialogue have the direct backing of Bikash Bora, the Chairman and Managing Director (CMD). A source close to Bora tells this report: "We have indirectly conveyed that they (British Borneo) should write to the CMD if they are interested but unless they show interest we can not proceed".

So, will British Borneo respond The companys London office tells this report any initiative with ONGC will have to come from its India business team in Madras, Tamil Nadu, where it acquired the PY-3 oilfield through its acquisition of Hardy. The one problem with this approach is that ONGC (like most of India) still thinks PY-3 is run by Hardy, even though technically, Hardy no longer exists.

For ONGC, an approach from Madras will appear to come from a company with no deepwater expertise. If British Borneo is interested, an approach will have to come from London.

For all its claim to modernity, India remains a country unfamiliar with the notion that a company can lose its identity overnight. For British Borneo, the bigger question is whether an alliance with ONGC is worth the trouble.

Industry circles in India are already convinced the company wants nothing more to do with India.