Cairn posts record sales

CAIRN ENERGY posted record full-year sales and raised hopes that its long-running disposal of its Indian unit will get government approval yesterday.

The Edinburgh-based oil and gas explorer agreed last August to sell up to 51 per cent of Cairn India for up to $9.6bn (£5.9bn) to rival Vedanata – but is still waiting for approval for the deal from the Indian authorities.

But chief executive Sir Bill Gammell said: “Cairn continues to believe the necessary approvals to complete the Vedanta transaction will be received.”

The firm’s Indian unit, Cairn India, has wells in Rajasthan. Its Mangala field was the largest oil discovery in India for more than 20 years and currently produces 125,000 barrels of oil a day.

These new wells and rising oil prices due to unrest in the Middle East boosted Cairn’s 2010 pre-tax profit to $577m (£352m), compared with a loss of $27m the year before. Sales hit an all-time high of $1.6bn.

Cairn has been trying to untangle its ties with state producer ONGC and complete the sale to Vedanta for the last eight months.

It plans to use the cash to expand its exploration off the coast of Greenland where it has successfully drilled three wells so far, with four more planned this summer.