Govt clears 3-year drilling moratorium for oil explorers

Oil and gas exploration companies have not been able to meet their work commitments for the blocks they had won under the New Exploration Licensing Policy rounds because of a shortage of deep-sea drilling rigs

Faced with global shortage of offshore drilling rigs, the government today decided to give a three-year drilling holiday or moratorium to firms such as state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) and Reliance Industries (RIL), reports PTI.

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) meeting chaired by prime minister Manmohan Singh approved a drilling moratorium from 1 January, 2008, on 30 exploration blocks — 16 of ONGC, 13 of RIL and one of Italy's Eni, official sources said.

Companies such as ONGC and RIL have not been able to meet their work commitments for the blocks they had won under the New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP) rounds because of a crunch in availability of deep-sea drilling rigs.

Sources said the CCEA approved a drilling holiday from 1 January, 2008, to 31 December, 2010, for 30 blocks awarded in the fifth round of NELP.

Globally, oil and gas explorers are faced with huge shortage of drilling rigs as countries stepped up oil and gas hunt in the wake of the surge in crude oil prices in 2008.

Day-hire charges for a deep sea drill rig had shot up 250% between 2007 and 2008.

But for the drilling holiday, the companies faced huge penalties for not fulfilling their work commitments that included drilling of a certain number of wells.

The petroleum ministry had first moved the Cabinet for the three-year drilling holiday or moratorium in 2008-end but the proposal was withdrawn after the finance ministry wanted a system of incentives and disincentives introduced to reward and punish companies based on performance during the period.

A grade system of incentives and disincentives will differentiate between companies that have completed the drilling work programme in deepwater acreages, which are being considered for a rig moratorium within the proposed three-year exploration holiday period or earlier and those which fail to complete the work, sources said.

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Food inflation eases to 12.63%; fuel inflation jumps to 18%

Fuel inflation rose sharply after the impact of fuel price hike by the government on 25th June. Auto fuel prices were raised by up to Rs3.50 a litre, while that of LPG and kerosene were hiked by Rs35 per cylinder and Rs3 a litre respectively

Annual food inflation eased to 12.63% for the week ended June 26th, but fuel inflation shot up to 18.02% after the hike in rates of petroleum products, reports PTI.

The rate of price rise of food items was 12.92% in the previous week ended 19th June.

Vegetable prices fell by over 4% year-on-year, led by a massive decline in rates of potato and onion. Potato became cheaper by over 42%, while onion by 8.75% on an annual basis.

Fuel inflation for the week under review, however, rose sharply to 18.02% after the impact of fuel price hike by the government on 25th June. Prices of petrol and diesel were raised by up to Rs3.50 a litre, while that of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and kerosene were hiked by Rs35 per cylinder and Rs3 a litre respectively.

Fuel inflation for the week ending 19th June stood at 12.90%.

Overall inflation for May was 10.16%, led by high food prices.

Food inflation had remained above the 16% level for most part of the year. However, it had fallen sharply for the week ended 19th June to 12.92%, from 16.90% in the week ago.

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Rajasthan HC notice to govt, RBI, SEBI, etc on BoR merger

The BoR Karamchari Sangh is seeking a stay on the proposed merger of the bank with ICICI Bank

The Rajasthan High Court (HC) on Wednesday issued notices to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Bank of Rajasthan (BoR), ICICI Bank and others on a petition filed by an employees union of the Udaipur-based bank against its proposed merger with the country's largest private sector lender, reports PTI.

"The High Court issued notices to all respondents — the Union of India, Reserve Bank, Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), BoR, ICICI Bank, PK Tayal and SK Tayal (BoR promoters)," said lawyer Varun Sinha, who filed the petition on behalf of the Akhil Bharatiya BoR Karamchari Sangh.

The respondents have been asked to file their replies within four weeks after which the matter will be posted for hearing.

The BoR Karamchari Sangh is seeking a stay on the proposed merger of the bank with ICICI Bank, Mr Sinha added.

The petition claims that the BoR board decision on 18 May, 2010 to merge with ICICI Bank was illegal as SEBI had found out that the Tayals had acquired 55.1% equity in the bank in violation of its regulations.

SEBI in its order on 8 March, 2010 had restrained the Tayals and their group entities from dealing in BoR shares.

"Then the merger on the basis of the share swap ratio method is in contrary to the SEBI order," Mr Sinha said.

ICICI Bank on 23 May, 2010 had agreed to take over BoR in a share-swap deal that valued the BoR at over Rs3,000 crore.

The merger would be based on ICICI giving one share for every 4.72 shares of BoR.

Post-merger, the balance sheet of ICICI Bank would cross Rs4 lakh crore. BoR has a total business of over Rs23,000 crore, as against nearly Rs3,84,000 crore of ICICI Bank.

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