ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Egypt's state-owned Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company (EGAS) has postponed by three months the closing date for international companies to present bids for 15 oil and gas concessions due to weak interest in the tender.
EGAS has pushed back the deadline for bidding to February 13 from November 14, an EGAS official told Reuters after a posting on the company's website showed the change of dates. EGAS announced the bidding in June for the exploration blocks in the Mediterranean and Nile Delta basins, all but two of which are offshore.
Oil Minister Osama Kamal said Monday on a late night talk show that the extension of the deadline was due to poor interest from international companies.
"The interest wasn't at the level that we wanted," Kamal said on the programme "The Last Word," broadcast by privately owned Egyptian channel ONTV.
An EGAS official told Reuters the delay was also to give an opportunity for another state-owned firm, the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation (EGPC), to announce its own tender results.
"The EGPC hasn't announced its results yet too and we want to give a chance for companies who have tendered in that bid and didn't get a block to tender in the EGAS bid," said the official, who did not want to be named as he was not authorised to speak to the press.
EGPC is due to announce the results of its latest bid round some time this week, around seven months after the closing date.
The closing bid for that tender had also been delayed to March 29 from January 30 to allow more companies to take part.
Some 25 bids have been received from international oil firms for the 15 concessions on offer, an EGPC official had told Reuters.
"The EGAS postponement was also a request from interested firms as they want more time for evaluation of the areas on offer before they submit their financial and technical bids," the official said, declining to comment on the number of companies interested in the bid so far.
Minister Kamal also said that a previous concession that had been abandoned by Royal Dutch Shell in 2011 was on offer in this latest EGAS bidding.
The NEMED concession, which lies off the Nile delta, was relinquished after Shell spent 10 years trying to prove the presence of gas that could be exploited. Shell said at the time it was not commercially viable for it to continue with the project.
Kamal said the NEMED concession was broken up into several blocks in the new bid round.
"The price for selling gas that was offered to our partners at the time was not feasible for them," Kamal said on television. "We will take into consideration the difference in price in this new tender," he said.
The EGAS official said that the NEMED concession area was too vast and that is why a decision to break it up into smaller blocks in this latest tender was taken.
"Shell had a difficult time as this was an ultra deep water concession and the area was too vast to be able to pick and choose which part the company would be able to focus on," he said.