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HindustanTimes Wed,20 Aug 2014

Gas price hike decision deferred by three months

Reuters  New Delhi, June 25, 2014
First Published: 19:50 IST(25/6/2014) | Last Updated: 12:39 IST(27/6/2014)

India deferred a decision on Wednesday to raise prices of locally produced gas for next three months, saying the matter requires more discussion.

Gas prices were due to rise from April 1, but were delayed in the build up to a general election that ended in May.

"The whole issue as well as the guidelines (for the price hike) require a comprehensive discussion," oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan told reporters after a meeting of the federal cabinet.

"We will have a dialogue with all the stakeholders. There is a need to take care of public interest."

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said a review mechanism will have to be decided by the Prime Minister's Office and the Oil Ministry.

"There have been one or two meetings. The mechanism in the government which will review the whole thing and come to an opinion, I think now needs to be finalised," he said.

Currently the bulk of domestic gas is sold at $4.2/mBtu. Demand for gas in India far outstrips production, but prices have been kept low for important industries such as fertiliser production and power generation, deterring investment in the sector.

Producers such as Reliance Industries and state-run ONGC want a price hike because the cost of exploring new reserves - many of which are in deep water - is more than the current price, leaving them reluctant to take the risk.

But any increase in prices would be unpopular with consumers as it would drive up inflation.

India is a large importer of energy. Its net energy imports last fiscal year amounted to 6.3% of gross domestic product.

Reliance, ONGC and Essar Oil could not immediately respond to requests for comment outside regular business hours.

(With PTI inputs)


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