New Pakistani government seeks to renegotiate LNG terminal deals - minister
By Asif Shahzad and Kay Johnson ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan's new government will renegotiate agreements for two liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminals, the country's petroleum minister said on Thursday, part of a wider investigation into deals struck by the previous government. Petroleum Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan said the government of ousted premier Nawaz Sharif agreed to pay too much to Pakistan's Engro Corp Ltd for at least one of the terminals
By Asif Shahzad and Kay Johnson
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan's new government will renegotiate agreements for two liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminals, the country's petroleum minister said on Thursday, part of a wider investigation into deals struck by the previous government.
Petroleum Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan said the government of ousted premier Nawaz Sharif agreed to pay too much to Pakistan's Engro Corp Ltd for at least one of the terminals.
"The decision is that this will be renegotiated with the parties," Khan told reporters on Thursday.
Engro did not address the prospect of renegotiation in a statement late on Thursday.
It responded to the minister's suggestion of impropriety by saying the bidding for the contract was done "in an auditable and transparent manner", adding that LNG imports helped ease Pakistan's crippling electricity shortages.
The rapid adoption of LNG infrastructure made Pakistan one of the industry's fastest-growing markets in Asia, sparking interest from the world's major energy producers and traders.
Engro, Pakistan's largest listed conglomerate, built the country's first LNG terminal in 2015 and has said it will begin building another one starting in early 2019. [nL8N1N92GZ]
It was not immediately clear if both LNG contracts the petroleum minister spoke of were with Engro, though it was the only company he named. Pakistan has two operational LNG terminals, one built by Engro, and several more planned.
Prime Minister Imran Khan's government came to power in July, riding on a wave of anti-corruption rhetoric.
Sharif was sentenced to 10 years in prison this year following his removal from office by the Supreme Court. His party denies all charges of corruption while it was in power from 2013.
Petroleum minister Khan made no direct claim of corruption in the LNG deals but said the contracts gave a maximum return on equity of up to 44 percent, which he said was far above the industry standard.
He implied that the government would take further action if it is not satisfied with future negotiations with Engro.
"We will renegotiate with them, will sit with them, will talk with them, and...if it doesn't work, then there are other remedies, which will be considered," he said.
Sharif's former petroleum minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who became prime minister after Sharif was removed from office, is currently under investigation by the state anti-corruption body over an unnamed LNG deal.
Abbasi, who led Pakistan's push to develop LNG infrastructure to end electricity outages of up to 12 hours per day, denies any wrongdoing.
Party officials say corruption cases against Sharif and other officials are a conspiracy by the judiciary and military to bring down their previous government.
The army and courts deny any interference in politics.
(Writing by Kay Johnson; Editing by Alexandra Hudson and Kirsten Donovan)
This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.
By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States
BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.