New Delhi: Russia has disqualified state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) from bidding for the giant Trebs and Titov fields in northwest Russia, PTI reports. An Indian official with information about the process was critical of the development, saying that the bid was rejected on “filmsy” grounds in order to keep out the competition.
Russia’s subsoil agency Rosnedra, late last month, rejected the bid of Nord Imperial, a unit of ONGC’s Russian firm Imperial Energy, on the grounds that it lacked financial capability to develop the Arctic fields. “Nord Imperial had on 21st September submitted an application for qualification to bid for rights to develop the 1.02 billion barrels Trebs and Titov fields in Timan-Pechora, in northwest Russia,” said an official with information about the bid.
“The bid clearly mentioned that Nord Imperial will have financial backing and support of its parents Imperial Energy and ONGC Videsh Ltd,” the official said. “Clearly, the Federal Agency for Management of Mineral Resources chose to ignore financial support letters from OVL while deciding to disqualify Nord Imperial.”
The Russian agency also stated that Nord Imperial had failed to present the approval of the company’s board, or shareholders, for the bid, which statement the Indian executive rubbished saying that the application was accompanied by a company board resolution. “These are nothing but flimsy grounds to keep competition away,” he said.
Among the other companies that were disqualified were Russia’s own Lukoil and Gazpromneft, and BP’s Russian joint venture TNK-BP, apparently for some unspecified errors in their applications. Analysts suggest that Rosnedra disqualifying most of the six contenders was tailored to pave the way for local oil firm Bashneft to win the contract. Surgutneftegaz, the other firm to qualify for the 2nd December tendering for the fields, was kept in the race to lend a veneer of competition.
Bashneft is part of the politically well-connected Sistema group, owned by Vladimir Yevtushenkov, who is said to have received support from President Dmitry Medvedev, according to one media report. Reports suggest that TNK-BP and Lukoil plan to challenge the disqualification in court.
Trebs and Titov, Russia’s largest undistributed fields, may hold more than 200 million tonnes of recoverable reserves. This is about half the reserves of Rosneft’s Vankor, the country’s largest new oil development. The deposits will be sold at a government auction on 2nd December.
Nord Imperial is part of Imperial Energy, which ONGC Videsh Ltd (the overseas investment arm of the state-owned firm) had acquired in 2008 for $2.1 billion.
New Delhi: The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has said that it had given enough time to foreign institutional investors (FIIs) to comply with the disclosure regulations and that several serious players had followed the norms, PTI reports.
“We have given them (FIIs) sufficient time (and) those who are serious have complied,” SEBI chairman C B Bhave said, when asked about the impact of the regulator’s decision to bar 197 FIIs and 342 sub-accounts from fresh trading after 30 September 2010.
Mr Bhave said that last year the market regulator found that FIIs had evolved structures, which were not entirely compliant with regulations. “So we investigated the matter further and in April we gave them a time limit of six months. Those who have not complied with the regulations have been asked not to operate in the market,” he said.
Among the foreign funds that have been barred by SEBI are some managed by global financial conglomerates like HSBC, Deutsche Bank and Standard Chartered Bank. A common issue with most of these entities was non-disclosure of their holding structure to the regulator.
On a question about the Coal India public offer, Mr Bhave said, “There is enough room to support such kind of paper and from the point of view of the kind of flows coming into India, I think there is enough supply of paper as well. That money will chase existing paper. It is a good thing that lot of paper is coming into the market.”
On the questioning of Satyam’s founder-chairman Ramalinga Raju, who has admitted to cooking up the account books, Mr Bhave said, “There were few showcause notices which SEBI had issued—one was to the accountants and one was to the officers in the company. Raju is part of the list of the notices that were issued to the officers of the company.”
He explained that since some of these people were in custody and they were not able to attend the hearings, the process could not carry on. “We got the permission of the court to question him even while they were in custody. But questioning can be done only when they are free to come here. So that is the process that will again start.”
Mercer, the leading global consulting firm, which had advised the pension regulator on its pension offering, feels that PFRDA has missed out on the big picture in designing the NPS architecture
While the new setup at the pension regulator, Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) is now bending over backwards in an effort to revamp the struggling New Pension System (NPS), it has taken a lot of time for the regulator to see reason in addressing vital imbalances in the struggling pension product. A lot of these efforts have been a result of issues being brought out by various participants and intermediaries in the system. Even a globally recognised consulting firm which advised the PFRDA on this product has admitted that the plan of action has not been executed properly.
Mercer, the leading global provider of consulting, outsourcing and investment services had been roped in by the PFRDA to work out the design of the NPS. This US-based firm has a wealth of experience in dealing with pension systems across different countries in the west and also in the Asia-Pacific region. Hansi Mehrotra, head of wealth management, Asia Pacific at Mercer told Moneylife on the sidelines of a seminar organised by the Australian Trade Commission that the regulator has indeed come out with a half-baked product.
"Although the investment aspect of the NPS structure has been worked out reasonably well by the PFRDA, there exist several glaring issues on the administrative and distribution side," Ms Mehrotra admitted.
Ms Mehrotra pointed out that earlier discussions with PFRDA involved having dedicated advisory personnel attached to the points of presence service providers (PoP-SPs). These advisors would guide prospective investors with the working of the product and enable them to choose a plan suitable to their needs. However, this advisory role was totally scrapped by the PFRDA in its final design structure.
This has only resulted in reduced awareness among the investor community about the benefits of the NPS. Awareness about the scheme has been the Achilles' heel for the NPS with the absence of any marketing efforts around the product. It is only now that the government has woken up from its slumber and given the go-ahead to the PFRDA to create an awareness campaign for the NPS.
"PFRDA made a crucial mistake of thinking that the NPS should be bought, and not sold," clarified Ms Mehrotra. She pointed out that the whole reason behind the slow take-off of the scheme is the lack of incentivisation of the PoPs. "In the absence of any commission, why would anyone want to push this product? Given the choice, any distributor will push products that yield higher commissions." She also said that the PFRDA probably jumped the gun in bringing out the product for the masses and certain decisions were taken too quickly. Asked whether the capital markets regulator, Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) also acted in haste in pushing certain regulations, Ms Mehrotra believes that the regulator did engage in discussions with market participants before taking these decisions. She did, however, point out that such decisions usually take longer in western countries due to the extent of lobbying done by corporates to the government.