BANGKOK, March 6 (Reuters) - Myanmar will let foreign companies bid for full control of new offshore oil and gas blocks that could be offered in April, removing a requirement that they take a local partner, a senior Energy Ministry official said.
"Arrangements are under way to invite bidding for about two dozen offshore blocks in April. The significance of this round will be that investors won't have to enter mandatory joint ventures with local companies," said the official, who declined to be named as he was not authorised to speak to the media.
The ministry invited bidding for 18 onshore blocks in January.
"The closing date for that round is on March 16. After that we plan to open another round for about 25 offshore blocks, mostly deep-sea and some shallow, in April," the official said.
The bidders for the 18 onshore blocks are required to have local partners.
As a result of that requirement, about 100 local entities rushed to register with the ministry with a view to entering into a partnership with foreign companies.
"Only a few of these local companies have any experience in the oil and gas industry. I think this requirement might have made some foreign investors reluctant," the official said.
"Offshore blocks are more challenging and costly. In order to make them more attractive, the requirement for mandatory partnership with local companies will be dropped," he added.
He said international oil and gas giants such as Royal Dutch Shell PLC, Chevron Corp, ConocoPhillips and Exxon Mobil Corp were waiting to bid for the new offshore blocks.
Official data shows Myanmar exported $3.50 billion worth of gas, mainly to neighbouring Thailand, in the fiscal year to March 2012, compared with $2.52 billion a year before.
Proceeds in the current fiscal year were $2.77 billion by the end of December.
Chinese state media have said a pipeline taking gas from off Rakhine State in Myanmar to China should be operational by the end of May and that a parallel oil pipeline will start in 2014.