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UK, Australian firms in race to be legal advisors for Iran pipeline project — No response from Indian firms

Richa Mishra

New Delhi , Oct. 15

BRITISH and Australian legal firms seem to be the main contenders for appointment as legal advisors for the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project.

Official sources told Business Line that there has been no response from any Indian legal firm to the global tender floated for the purpose. Instead, most of the proposals have come from British and Australian legal firms.

The sources, however, refrained from revealing the names of the firms that have applied.

A high-level committee constituted by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas comprising the Chairman and Managing Director, GAIL (India) Ltd, Mr Proshanto Banerjee; the Indian Oil Corporation Chairman, Mr S. Behuria; and a senior official from the Ministry is monitoring the selection and appointment of financial, technical and legal advisors for the project. The committee has also sought the services of the former Attorney General, Mr Soli Sorabji, to help in finalising the legal advisors.

According to the sources, stringent conditions have been laid down for bidders to be nominated as legal advisors, including the stipulation that the legal firm should have worked on at least one trans-national pipeline project and one liquefied natural gas project. The firms that have responded to the tender have been asked to provide some more information, and after their presentation a decision will be taken, the sources said.

Recently, Ernst & Young (E&Y) was nominated as the financial advisor for the pipeline project. While Indian Oil Corporation was mandated to make an offer for the appointment of a financial advisor, GAIL has been asked to tender for appointing technical and legal advisors. The financial advisor shall lead the consortium of advisors and act as the lead advisor.

The legal advisor will help in drafting and negotiating various inter-state and state-level agreements. This will include memorandum of understanding between the heads of the states (Iran, Pakistan and India), and the inter-governmental agreement between the three nations to facilitate the realisation of the project within the territories of these countries. The legal advisor will also guide the governments on protection of investment and trade.

The appointed entity will also help in formulating the clutch of government agreements to be entered into separately by India, Iran and Pakistan with the project investors to deal with the requirements of each host country individually and the project activity within each country.

The major scope of work for the technical advisor shall be to recommend the route, safety and security aspects, the optimum cost of the project, the transportation tariff and the technical specifications of the pipelines.

India signed an agreement with Iran in May to purchase 7.5 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas. India and Pakistan expect the pipeline to be laid by 2010.

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