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No final call on IOC carve-up, says Naik

New Delhi, Oct. 7: Petroleum minister Ram Naik today said the government had not yet taken any decision to split the retail business of Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) to sell it to a private company.

Striking a divergent note from disinvestment minister Arun Shourie, the petroleum minister said the Cabinet Committee on Disinvestment (CCD) was considering the IOC divestment issue as one of the three options to get out of the impasse created by the Supreme Court's ruling halting the divestment of Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL) and Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL). The other two options being considered by the government include seeking a judicial review and a political consensus to steer the issue through Parliament, he added.

He said any decision to split IOC could not be taken by a single ministry and the final decision on the IOC selloff would be taken by the cabinet.

Naik's comments have disproved media reports that the Prime Minister had asked his ministers not to speak to the press on the issue.

The minister said the petroleum ministry and the department of disinvestment would examine the issue of splitting IOC and then put up their respective views before the CCD within three months.

Shourie had stated after the CCD meeting on Friday that the government had decided to hive off IOC's retail business into two or three parts and sell them to get the privatisation process going in the petroleum sector.

The disinvestment minister had said the government had decided not to get into a confrontation with the judiciary on the issue of privatising HPCL and BPCL. Instead, it would split the retail business of IOC for privatisation, he added. Shourie had also said the earlier CCD decision of not privatising IOC had been overturned.

Meanwhile, IOC has paid a dividend of Rs 2,258 crore to the government. IOC chairman M. S. Ramachandran today presented a Rs 1,533 crore cheque to Naik as the final payment of the 193 per cent dividend. The company has posted a net profit of Rs 6,115 crore in 2002-03.

Dredging Corp IPO

The government is planning to come up with an initial public offering (IPO) to divest 20 per cent of its 98.56 per cent stake in Dredging Corporation of India (DCI) by January to raise Rs 250 crore.

Union minister of state for shipping Dilip Gandhi said the timing of the IPO would be crucial and the government hopes to mop up around Rs 250 crore given the current bullish run in the market.

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