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Dart Energy to sell 49% stake in Indian subsidiary

Move to raise funds to finance exploration, production ventures plan in India and UK

Kalpana Pathak & Shine Jacob  |  Mumbai/New Delhi 

Australia-based Dart Energy Ltd, which is battling a fund crunch, will shortly sell a 49 per cent stake in its India subsidiary to raise funds to finance its exploration and production ventures in India and the UK.

"Dart Energy has been facing a fund crunch. It tried to raise funds via the initial public offering route, but failed. Thus, it has decided to sell a stake in the company," a company executive said, requesting anonymity.

This June, state-run explorer Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) had offered 10 to 25 per cent stakes in its four coal-bed methane (CBM) blocks to Dart Energy. While the Australian firm received 25 per cent interest in the Jharia, North Karanpura and Bokaro blocks in Jharkhand, it won a 10 per cent stake in the Raniganj block in West Bengal. In Raniganj, London-listed Great Eastern Energy Corp Ltd is Dart's partner with 25 per cent interest.

The company, however, has already conveyed its reluctance to ONGC in taking up the stakes in the North Karanpura and Raniganj blocks, according to a senior ONGC official, who also did not want to be named.

CBM is a form of natural gas extracted from coal beds.

At present, Dart Energy holds one CBM block in Satpura, Madhya Pradesh, with 80 per cent interest, while Tata Power Co Ltd holds the rest. In July 2010, Dart Energy was awarded the Satpura CBM licence in the government's CBM IV licensing round.

Another block that the company holds in Assam was also awarded to it in 2010. While Dart Energy holds a 60 per cent stake in the block, state-run Indian Oil Ltd holds the remaining 40 per cent.

Dart Energy has at least 50 CBD and shale gas assets in India, Australia, China, Indonesia, the UK, Poland, Germany and Belgium. Dart Energy commenced operations in India in 2006 as Arrow Energy International. It secured three blocks in the CBM III bidding round and secured two additional blocks in the CBM IV round in 2010.

However, last year, as part of its portfolio rationalisation, the company relinquished the blocks awarded in the CBM III round due to various reasons. Dart Energy’s corporate headquarters are located in Singapore, which provides centralised control and support to the entire business across the core disciplines of petroleum engineering, geology, drilling operations and planning.

Gagan Khurana, Commercial Advisor, Dart Energy, in an emailed response said,"Dart Energy is in the process of seeking farm-out/ joint venture or divestment opportunities for certain assets including its Indian business, however it is too early to provide any visibility on structure, timing and/or proceeds associated with its divestment process."

The Indian subsidiary had 28 full time employees and four full-time consulting personnel, according to its 2012 annual report. Sources said the company's restructuring exercise has seen exit of some key professionals, too.

Meanwhile, ONGC is remaining silent on the future of the blocks it had offered to Dart Energy. Early this year, as part of roping in the private sector, the state-owned energy giant had offered stakes in its blocks to like Deep Industries, Great Eastern Energy and a consortium led by Jindal Petroleum.

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First Published: Wed, August 21 2013. 23:56 IST