Companies & Sectors
ONGC denies $5 billion bid for ConcoPhillips assets

Denying reports that ONGC has bid $5 billion for the Canadian assets of ConcoPhillips, the state-run company said it is still looking at the four CMB blocks put up for sale

Mumbai: State-run oil and gas behemoth ONGC on Tuesday denied reports that it has bid $5 billion for the Canadian assets of ConcoPhillips along with Oil India and IndianOil, but said it is looking at international assets purchases, reports PTI.
Denying any credibility to the report appearing in media that it has already bid for the four CBM blocks of ConcoPhillips in Canada, ONGC chairman and managing director Sudhir Vasudeva said, "the source clearly is not ONGC. I want to deny that we have made any such bids." 
Stating that the company is always on the lookout for opportunities to buy asset, he said all he could tell is that ONGC is looking at these four CMB blocks, which are up for sale.
"We keep on looking at opportunities in the market but it is not right to keep on commenting on them. As such deals are sensitive and there are confidential agreements to be signed so it is not correct to comment on them. But I can't give you a timeline, though it is going to be shortly.
"But I can categorically say that we have not made a bid yet for the $5 billion deal," Vasudeva said on the sidelines of an All-India Management Association summit here.
Media reports quoting unnamed ONGC Videsh sources had said yesterday that it along with Oil India and IndianOil has bid $5 billion for stakes in Canadian oil sands assets owned by ConocoPhillips.
According to the report, they submitted the bids in late July.
In January, ConocoPhillips put stakes in six Alberta sands properties on the block. They produce 12,000 barrels of oil a day from an estimated 30 billion barrels of bitumen.
ONGC Videsh, which is the overseas investment arm of ONGC, had recently bought the 2.7% stake of Hess in the large Azeri, Chirag and Guneshli (ACG) Group of oil fields in Azerbaijan. 
On the Central auditor CAG castigating the company for hiring a deep-sea drilling rig from Reliance without inviting competitive bids, Vasudeva said they are in the process of studying the CAG report and replying to the same.
"We have replied in the past but our view has not been taken into consideration. There were valid reasons. We have gone through a rigid process, rigorous process of diligence etc, duly approved by the board and accordingly we had gone ahead and taken this.
"Anybody will not deliberately sell something wrong. We don't think we have done anything wrong, but if there are difference in perceptions, then we will correct those perceptions. That can be done only through dialogues and discussions," the ONGC chairman said.
But to a query on when is the ONGC likely to respond to the CAG, he shot back saying "I can't reply to it now." 
The Comptroller & Auditor General (CAG), in a report tabled in Parliament late last month, had hauled up ONGC for hiring a deep sea drilling rig from Reliance Industries without calling for competitive bids and said that the deal was untenable.
The CAG report said ONGC "deviated from the standard tendering procedure and hired a rig viz Dhirubhai Deepwater KG-1 (DDKG-1) from RIL without calling for competitive bids for a period of four years on untenable grounds." 
In May 2009, ONGC had hired the DDKG-1 from RIL for four years ending July 2013 without calling for competitive bids at an operating day rate of $495,000 for first 180 days and at $510,000 from 181st day onwards. The effective day rate worked out to $563,488.
CAG said the company in December 2008 projected a requirement of rig capable of drilling in ultra deep water (water depth of 10,000 ft) by December 2010 to meet its work commitment in exploration block it had won under NELP rounds.
The rig, CAG pointed out, was in fact hired by RIL from Deepwater Pacific-1 Inc in October 2007, for five years commencing July 2009 and ending July 2014.


Gujarat HC transfers RTI activist's murder case to CBI

Amit Jethwa who had filed numerous RTI applications and a PIL against illegal mining in Gir forest region, was shot dead outside the Gujarat High Court on 20 July 2010

Ahmedabad: Strongly criticising Gujarat police for its investigation in the 2010 murder of Right to Information (RTI) activist Amit Jethwa, the Gujarat High Court on Tuesday ordered a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the case, reports PTI.
The division bench of Justices DH Vaghela and JC Upadhayay conceded the demand of activist's father Bhikabhai Jethwa for a CBI probe and asked the central agency to complete further investigation in the case, preferably within six months.
An RTI activist, Jethwa, who had filed numerous RTI applications and a PIL against illegal mining in Gir forest region, was shot dead outside the Gujarat High Court on 20 July 2010.
The court observed that investigation by the Gujarat police in the Jethwa murder case was far from satisfactory and to instill the confidence and sense of justice in the probe, the court is compelled to transfer it in the hands of CBI.
The court asked the CBI to carry forward further investigation and directed all officers who were involved in the probe so far to cooperate with the agency.
The court also asked the earlier investigating officer to provide all probe-related papers to the CBI within 10 days.
After the pronouncement of the judgement, the government pleader requested for a stay of three weeks to challenge the order in the higher forum, but it was rejected by the court.
Bhikabhai had approached the High Court saying that the state police had not properly investigated the case.
He had alleged that Junagadh BJP MP Dinu Solanki was behind the murder but the state government was shielding him.
In its investigation, Gujarat police had given a clean chit to Solanki.
Gujarat police had arrested six people in the case including BJP MP Dinu Solanki's nephew Shiva Solanki and sharp shooter Sailesh Pandya, who had fired at Jethwa.
During the course of hearing in the case, Bhikhabhai had alleged that police had not conducted any investigation in the alleged involvement of Solanki in the murder of Amit.
Following this, the court had directed for further probe in the case to be done by the then Superintendent of Police, Surendranagar, Raghvendra Vatsa, and ordered him to specifically probe the role of the BJP MP.
After his probe, Vatsa had concluded that he did not find any evidence of Amit Jethwa being murdered at the behest of Solanki and had given a clean chit to him.


Congress endorses UPA government's new economic reforms

Congress President Sonia Gandhi, while slamming BJP for playing 'negative' politics, said reforms in the economy are very necessary and the UPA government has started moving in this direction

New Delhi: Congress on Tuesday fully endorsed new economic reform measures of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, including foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail, as party president Sonia Gandhi ruled out any threat to the government, reports PTI.


The endorsement came at the first meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) after Trinamool Congress walked out of UPA with the party president saying the government was "stable".


At the same time, there was a demand in the meeting for steps to allay apprehensions of people regarding the new economic reform measures initiated by the government at a time when elections are due in some states in the next few months.


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh assured the party's apex decision-making body that the steps being taken for the poor and the disadvantaged will continue in league with the Congress policies for development and welfare of the 'Aam Admi'.


The meeting of the CWC, which began with opening remarks by Gandhi, saw the government making a strong pitch for reforms with Finance Minister P Chidambaram making it clear that unless the country's economic condition is sound, the government is not in a position to implement the flagship programmes of UPA targeted at the poor.


The Prime Minister said that effective steps for welfare of the poor cannot be taken unless the economy is strong.


Explaining the rationale behind the measures, Chidambaram said the government wants that the country should not get affected due to the global economic crisis.


In her opening remarks, Gandhi said that reforms in the economy are "very necessary" and the government has begun the moves in that direction.


The Congress President also slammed BJP for playing "negative" politics, saying the main opposition party should play the role of a responsible opposition as was done by Congress when it was not in power.


Congress sources said that there a likelihood of the party organising a massive rally in Delhi in support of the measures initiated by the government.


Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit was specially called for the meeting, which saw members suggesting that rallies should be held at district level to convince the people about the need to bring in the measures like allowing 51% FDI in multi-brand retail, hiking diesel prices and putting a cap on the supply of subsidised LPG cylinders to households.


While no resolution was adopted after the meeting, the tone and tenor of Gandhi's speech made it clear that the party was fully behind the government on the issue.


Chidambaram was called to brief the CWC members about the economic reform measures, which led to a political storm culminating in Trinamool Congress withdrawing support from the ruling alliance.


The CWC meeting came five days after a nation-wide bandh by the opposition in protest against the measures. UPA constituent DMK had also joined the bandh.


Replying to questions, AICC general secretary Janardan Dwivedi said that there was nothing like a dissenting note from any party leader on the economic reform measures.


"No such thing came up in the CWC meeting," Dwivedi said when asked whether somebody raised a dissenting voice on the government measures like diesel hike and FDI.


There was no discussion on the issue of Telangana, he said.


There were earlier speculation that the party can firm up a view in the CWC meeting on the vexed issue of separate statehood.


Though the Congress President did not take any names, sources said Gandhi mentioned in her opening remarks that while one party (Trinamool Congress) has withdrawn support from UPA, two allies (SP and BSP) have reiterated their outside support to the government.


"Government is stable. There is no threat to the government," Dwivedi quoted Gandhi as saying in the meeting.


Sources said that a senior party member felt that if possible, the number of subsidised LPG cylinders to each household should be increased.


The CWC was of the view that all precautions should be taken to remove the apprehensions of people on FDI.


Briefing the CWC, Chidambaram said the government has only three options to improve the economy of the country including raising production, increasing investment in the country and cutting on subsidies on which it is working.


After a number of CWC members expressed the view that there is a need to convince people about measures and counter the Opposition campaign against the government on the issue, it was decided that the week-long campaign carried out by Union Ministers and senior Congress leaders in different states will be extended further.


The Congress President also expressed sorrow over incidents of communal violence in few states and the violent ethnic clashes in Assam.


AICC general secretary Gulchain Singh Charak, who belongs to Jammu and Kashmir, expressed concern over killings of sarpanches in the state and pointed out that they have not been given powers though more than one-and-a-half year has passed since panchayat elections were held in the state.


The concern prompted Rahul Gandhi to say that it was a serious matter and required attention. Panchayat elections in J&K took place after a gap of 34 years.


A view was also expressed in the CWC that opposition parties ruling in states are making political capital out of central schemes by passing them as their own initiatives.


One of the leaders raised this in the context of Gujarat, saying posters of Chief Minister Narendra Modi are put up to display work carried out under central government schemes.


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