The government will "fully protect" the interest of state-run ONGC while considering the application for acquisition of Cairn India by the Vedanta Group, Petroleum Minister Murli Deora said on Wednesday.
"The interest of ONGC will be fully protected," Deora asserted at the Economic Editors Conference here while answering a query on the Cairn-Vedanta deal.
The Anil Agarwal-led Vedanta Group has made an offer of $9.6 billion to acquire 51-60 percent of the Indian subsidiary of the London-based Cairn Energy. ONGC holds 30-50 percent stake in each of Cairn India's three oil blocks, as well as some NELP (New Exploration Licensing Policy) blocks like in the Krishna-Godavari Basin, where gas has been discovered.
Cairn Energy has maintained that ONGC's preemptive rights would not get triggered as the deal does not involve sale of Cairn India's assets to Vedanta but is only a corporate transaction involving transfer of shares.
The Petroleum Secretary, S. Sundareshan, denied that the government is dragging its feet on taking a decision on the Cairn-Vedanta deal. "We only received the letter from Cairn asking for permission in mid-September. The ministry is not delaying the matter, as the fact is that they had not applied for permission earlier," he said.
He added that a decision would be taken before the end of this financial year.