Anti-Monopoly Service Wants More Time on Bid for Imperial Energy

The Federal Anti-Monopoly Service said Wednesday that it needed more time to review ONGC's bid to buy Imperial Energy because it believed that the deal could limit competition.

"Interested parties have the right to present evidence of the effect on competition of the deals listed or other actions," the service said.

In late August, India's biggest oil producer agreed on a takeover of the midsized, London-listed Russian oil producer for $2.6 billion, but for the deal to go ahead it must have no strategic assets and it must then be approved by the anti-monopoly service.

Late last week, the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry said it had deemed Imperial nonstrategic, clearing the first hurdle and allowing it to be bought and fully developed by foreigners.

Investors have been closely following Imperial's two approvals as the Russian investment climate worsens and foreign capital floods out.

A source close to the deal dismissed fears that the deal might not go ahead.

"This is a completely standard process and straightforward. Nothing has changed. Everyone continues to be focused on completing the deal as quickly as possible," the source said.

Under Russian law, the anti-monopoly service has 30 days from the day it receives a bid to reply to the bidder, but this can be extended if it needs additional information.

A source at the service said: "The deadline to make a decision on the deal is the end of December of this year. But of course, this could happen earlier."

Some industry insiders say the extension comes from a desire to put the pending deal on hold while India and Russia discuss energy cooperation on a much larger scale.