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26 May, 2017 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 26 May, 2017 03:38:02 AM

Govt decides to buy all shares

Govt decides to buy all shares

In a move to obtain three gas fields that produce 55 per cent of the country’s total gas production, the government has decided to buy shares of Chevron in Bangladesh, blocking all its share transfer activities to Chinese consortium Himalaya Energy Co. Ltd. The Chinese consortium is owned by China ZhenHua Oil Co. and CNIC Corporation Ltd. The decision has been taken in a meeting presided over by the prime minister’s energy affairs adviser Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury at the secretariat yesterday. Nasrul Hamid, state minister for power and energy, Nazim Uddin Chawdhury, Secretary to the energy division, Abul Mansur Md Faizullah, chairman of petrobangla, among others, were present in the meeting. “We reviewed the issue and the government high ups want to move towards buying all shares of Chevron,” said an official of the energy ministry. “I cannot make any comments right now,” the energy secretary said when contacted yesterday. Sources said the government will not approve Chevron’s share transfer to any other company.
Last week, Petrobangla, the state-owned oil and gas corporation, wrote a letter to Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) and Joint Stock Companies and Firms (JSCF) to block all activities relating to the transfer of Chevron’s shares to the Chinese consortium.
Not only freezing the share transfer, the government would also verify all disputed issues related to Chevron over the last 17 years that include Magurchhara blowout and some other issues.  “At this moment, we cannot say

anything to the media on the Chevron issue as all those participated in the meeting has been instructed to keep mum,” said a senior government official having extensive knowledge on the matter.
Meanwhile, things got complicated in regard to the Chinese consortium, as it has already established its office in Dhaka without taking any permission from the government following Chevron’s snub to the government regarding the share transfer and sell out of its shares to Himalaya.
 “We cannot believe that such an international company can bring in Himalaya without our permission. They have ignored all our requests and communications that we have sent them over the past two months,” said an official of the Energy Division.
On October 14, last year, Nasrul Hamid told media that the government had offered to buy all the natural gas assets of Chevron in Bangladesh.
“We are interested in buying the assets. It will be a big opportunity for us to have access to the entire production of the three gas fields,” he had said.
But, Chevron did not respond to the interest evinced by the government, and instead handed over its shares to the Chinese consortium.
Referring to a letter sent to Chevron, the Petrobangla officials informed yesterday’s meeting that as per the production sharing contract (PSC), the US oil giant would have to take government permission for transfer of shares to the Chinese company.
But, the company did not applied for any such transfer. Rather, in a communiqué Chevron informed Petrobangla that there is no obligation to take such permission, which the government officials maintain is a must.
“We had requested them to stop all share transfer activities but they kept ignoring us,” Petrobangla officials informed the meeting.  
In answer to a query at the meeting on the legality of the share transfer to Himalaya and the company’s setting up of office in Dhaka, officials told the meeting that share transfer is not legal until Petrobangla approves it. “This hand over is not legal until the Petrobangla approves the transfer,” Petrobangla officials stated in the meet.
“If the US company did the share transfer lawfully, it will be difficult to buy the shares at this moment. But, if they have sold the shares illegally then there is a window to have the stakes of Chevron,” said Dr. M Tamim, energy expert and a BUET teacher. Geology Professor of Dhaka University Dr. Badrul Alam told the Independent that’s Chevron’s transfer of shares was faulty.
“The US oil giant completed the share transfer without informing the government, which is a crime and I think the government should take action against them” he said.  
“Those are our assets and Chevron cannot do anything without permission of the government,” he added.
Chevron, one of the largest oil companies in the world, had announced recently that they want to sell their assets in Bangladesh for $2 billion. The assets include Bibiyana, Moulvibazar and Jalalabad gas fields. The energy ministry then offered to buy the assets.  Currently, government officials feel that Bangladesh should take tough action against the US Company to get proper compensation for the Magurchara incident before it proceeds to buy its shares. Chevron has so far paid Petrobangla a paltry amount against a claim of Tk 3,900 crore in compensation for the Magurchara gas explosion in 1997. Dr. Anu Muhammad,  secretary general of the Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Port— a citizens’ platform— told the Independent that the government should appoint an international committee to assess the damage done during the Magurchara accident and the compensation. “I think the time is ripe now to make the move before taking a decision on Chevron’s assets,” he said.





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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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