R. S. Sharma
India

R. S. Sharma

Chairman and Managing Director, Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, India

R.S. Sharma has the top job at India's Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), a state-owned company with a growing global agenda. Market capitalisation makes ONGC India's second-largest company, trailing Reliance Industries, Mukesh Ambani's conglomerate.

Sharma joined ONGC in 1988 as Joint Director of Finance and became Director of Finance in 2002. After Subir Raha left ONGC in May 2006, Sharma became acting Chairman and Managing Director. In July 2007, after a year-long search for Raha's replacement, Sharma emerged as the top candidate. The government opted for Sharma's stable hand over a reformer, but his appointment was greeted with indifference by analysts and investors, who saw a missed opportunity for fresh leadership. His tenure ends in 2011.

ONGC is the most profitable company in India, but it is still hampered by government policies, such as a cap on natural gas prices that is lower than production costs. Sharma said the company lost 30 billion rupees (US$630 million) on natural gas sales in the last fiscal year. Those results mean ONGC must put on hold some of its downstream expansion plans.

As domestic production declines, overseas expansion is key to India's oil security, which it pursues through its subsidiary, ONGC-Videsh (OVL). OVL, also chaired by Sharma, has joint ventures in Congo-Brazzaville, Egypt, Libya, Nigeria, the Nigeria-São Tomé Joint Development Zone and Sudan. Having competed in vain with China, OVL is now trying cooperation: in Sudan, it works with the China National Petroleum Corporation and Malaysia's Petronas. Sharma also serves on the boards of the Indian Oil Corporation and ONGC Mittal Energy, which has two exploration blocks in Nigeria.

Sharma


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