In January 2014, Cairn received notice from the Indian Income Tax Department of India (IITD) requesting information relating to the Group reorganisation in 2006. The IITD attached the 10% shareholding in Cairn India Limited, then valued at approximately US$1 billion. Cairn received a draft assessment order from the IITD in March 2015 and subsequently filed a Notice of Dispute under the UK-India Investment Treaty in order to protect its legal position and shareholder interests.
Cairn commenced international arbitration proceedings against India in 2015 following the retrospective taxation actions undertaken by the IITD in 2014. Final merits hearings for the arbitration concluded during 2018. Cairn’s claim under the Treaty is for monetary compensation of ~US$1.4 billion, the sum required to reinstate the Company to the position it would have been in, but for the actions of the IITD since January 2014. The arbitration Panel is expected to issue a binding and internationally-enforceable award, and Cairn continues to have a high level of confidence in the merits of its claims in the arbitration.
Now that the merits submissions and hearings have concluded, the arbitration Panel is preparing its final award with respect to Cairn’s claim under the Treaty. The Panel had originally guided the arbitration parties that it expected to issue an award expeditiously following the conclusion of the main merits hearings in The Hague held in August 2018.
When the parties appeared before the Tribunal in December 2018, the Panel advised that it had not been able to advance the award as expected due to the number of procedural matters that had been brought before it since the August hearings, and that it is was not in a position at that time to give guidance to the parties on the expected timing of the issuance of the award.
Cairn subsequently wrote to the Panel in February 2019 asking if it was then able to provide any guidance on timing, and the Panel has now responded that although it remains mindful of Cairn’s need for a swift decision, given its workload and the number of matters before it, it is still unable to provide specific guidance on timing. As a result of this, Cairn expects that the timetable for issuing the award will be more protracted than originally anticipated and is unlikely to be before late 2019.
The Panel has said it will keep the parties updated regarding its progress.
To date, the IITD has seized dividends due to Cairn from its shareholding in Vedanta Limited (VL) totalling approximately US$164m and it has offset a tax rebate of US$234m due to Cairn as a result of overpayment of capital gains tax on a separate matter. During the year, the IITD seized proceeds from a 4.9% sale of Cairn’s shareholding in VL, together with redemption proceeds on the VL preference shares, totalling US$713m. Following these sales, Cairn’s retained holding in VL is now 0.1%.