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Monday, 15 April, 2002, 15:38 GMT 16:38 UK
Pakistan restarts energy sell-off
A stock trader in Karachi, Pakistan's main financial centre
Karachi's stock exchange was boosted by the auction
Pakistan's privatisation plans, stalled since shortly before the attack on Afghanistan in 2001, has restarted with state oil and gas rights going under the hammer.

A string of bidders, both foreign and domestic, have offered a total of $176m (122m) for nine concessions.

The figure, said privatisation minister Altaf Saleem, "is extremely close to what we had estimated".

Bids in
Badin I (40%):
BP, Occidental
Pariwali (17.5%):
Fauji Foundation
Adhi (11%):
Pakistan Oil Field
Badin II (25%):
BP, Occidental
Dhurnal (25%):
Western Acquisitions
Turkwal (20%):
Attock Oil Co
Ratana (25%):
Western Acquisitions
Minwal (17.5%):
Mazarani (12.5%):
Western Acquisitions
The receipts from the privatisation programme are intended to help reduce Pakistan's external borrowings - although this particular set of deals will hardly scratch the surface of the $38bn debt burden.

Among the main top bidders are BP, Canadian firm Occidental Petroleum, and the Fauji Foundation, the wealthy Pakistani army welfare organisation.

More to come?

Observers felt the government could have got more.

"The price is a bit below our expectations," Arshad Arif, head of research at AKD Securities, said, quoting a forecast of about $200m.

"The government should push the highest bidders and it may still get a price higher."

Ahead of the auction, some had suggested the government had hoped for as much as $350m.

One reason for the low price could be the fact that despite reforms to the sector, regulation of the energy business in Pakistan is still far from transparent.

Front line

The political risk associated with a country bordering Afghanistan could also play a part in reducing the preparedness to pay up.

And popular opposition to the privatisation programme is high.

Still on the privatisation agenda is the sale of a 26% shareholding in state telephone firm Pakistan Telecommunications.

See also:

09 Apr 02 | Business
South Asian growth speeds up
18 Feb 02 | Business
Pakistan reaps war dividend
24 Oct 01 | Business
World Bank approves aid for Pakistan
22 Oct 01 | Business
Pakistan counts cost of war
04 Oct 01 | Business
Pakistan ditches privatisation plan
27 Sep 01 | Business
Japan eases Pakistan's debt burden
26 Sep 01 | Business
Pakistan wins IMF cash
23 Sep 01 | Business
Sanctions boost for Pakistan economy
22 Aug 01 | Business
Pakistan seeks new IMF money
14 Aug 01 | Business
Boost for Pakistan economy?
14 Feb 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Pakistan
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