Clearance 'soon' on $7.2bn Reliance-BP deal
India's cabinet could soon clear a proposed $7.2 billion sale by Reliance of a 30 percent stake in its oil and gas assets to British energy giant BP, Indian media reports said Wednesday.
The oil ministry has "unequivocally recommended clearance of the deal," but wants the cabinet to approve it because of its value, the reports quoted an unnamed ministry official as saying.
The Hindustan Times newspaper and other media said cabinet approval for the deal could come next week.
BP's tie-up with Reliance will accelerate fuel-hungry India's energy exploration and hand the Indian company the skills to develop hard-to-exploit reserves, analysts say.
India's home ministry gave security clearance to the sale a month ago.
Europe's second-biggest oil company, BP is acquiring a 30 percent interest in in 23 exploration blocks, including the eastern offshore KG-D6 gas field which is India's biggest gas deposit.
Reliance wants BP's help in ramping up production from the KG-D6 field, which has been flagging.
The Indian firm could receive up to $1.8 billion in additional payments based on exploration success, the companies said when the agreement was announced in February.
India imports about 80 percent of its crude oil and has been frantically seeking new fuel sources as its economy grows.
BP already runs a joint venture with Reliance on one offshore field in India, controls leading lubricants firm Castrol India, and has a partnership to make solar panels with the Tata conglomerate.
The oil ministry has said it sees no problems that could hold up the Reliance deal.
Last week, India's government gave long-awaited clearance to the multi-billion-dollar sale of British oil explorer Cairn Energy's Indian oilfields to London-listed mining group Vedanta Resources.
The approval, nearly a year after the sale was initially announced, came with the key rider that Cairn India's new owner must share the oilfields' royalty burden, currently borne in whole by India's state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corp.
© 2011 AFP