India offers Qatar stake in Petronet

India and Qatar are likely to sign deals under which more liquefied natural gas (LNG) could flow in from that country, which would pick up stake in Petronet LNG Ltd.

The possibility of such deals coming through sent the PLL stock surging by 20 per cent today; the scrip closed at Rs 57.90 on the BSE, hitting the upper limit.

India made the offer of an equity stake during a meeting between the Qatar Finance Minister, Mr Yusuf Hussain Kamal, and the Petroleum Minister, Mr Murli Deora, on Thursday, while seeking 10 million tonnes (mt) of additional LNG supply.

Speaking to newspersons, the Petroleum Secretary, Mr M.S. Srinivasan, said that Qatar has been offered an opportunity to pick up Petronet's $100-million foreign currency convertible bonds (FCCB), which upon conversion into equity shares would translate into 7.5-12.5 per cent equity stake.

After subscribing to the FCCB, Qatar could join Petronet in making an offer to buy the LNG terminal of Ratnagiri Gas and Power Ltd (erstwhile Dabhol power plant), which is proposed to be hived off.

Mr Srinivasan said that a team from the Qatar Investment Agency would be in India next week to carry out due diligence for buying stake in Petronet.

It would also decide on which Qatari Government agency would be used for the purpose, he added.

Mr P. Dasgupta, Managing Director of Petronet, said: "We have approvals for the bond issue and Qatar can buy a stake in the company through it."

Officials also said that the two deals - supply of more gas and picking up equity - were independent of each other, as Petronet had earlier offered Qatar a stake in the company.

Qatar, however, did not show much interest at that time.

Qatar Investment Agency is now looking at investing in energy-related projects in India.

According to analysts, the deal with Qatar would ensure regular supply of LNG to the Dabhol plant, which is facing start-up delays because of non-availability of fuel.

"As a shareholder, they would be concerned about the company too," said analysts.

India currently has a contract to buy 7.5 mt of LNG a year from Qatar, and is seeking to raise it to 17.5 mt.

However, the current supply from Qatar is only five mt, said Mr Deora.

"Their response was very positive and the LNG could be brought to Kochi, Ratnagiri and Mangalore LNG terminals."

"We expect to import the additional fuel, which will be mainly used to run power plants, from 2010-11," Mr Srinivasan said.

Petronet has a 25-year contract to buy LNG from Ras Laffan Liquefied Natural Gas Co Ltd II (RasGas II), a joint venture between the state-run Qatar Petroleum and Exxon Mobil.

Through this contract, Petronet currently imports five mt at its Dahej terminal in Gujarat and would start importing 2.5 mt more from 2009.

Qatar has also been invited by ONGC to participate in the company's LNG terminal at Mangalore.

The ONGC Chairman and Managing Director, Mr R.S. Sharma, said that his company has offered Qatar an equity stake in the aromatic and olefin complex coming up at Mangalore.

It may also offer a stake in the proposed LNG terminal near the complex.

Source: Business Line, New Delhi, October 5, 2006
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