(Adds context in paras 2-3, background on negotiations)
LIBREVILLE Aug 8 Gabon's oil ministry said on
Friday it had signed seven oil contracts with six companies as
part of an offshore licensing round expected to attract at least
$1.1 billion in investment to the sector.
The Central African country hopes that this tender, its
tenth, will help it reverse a chronic decline in output due to
maturing onshore fields. The former OPEC member currently pumps
about 230,000 barrels per day, down from a peak of close to
400,000 bpd in the 1990s.
Drilling deep offshore the Gulf of Guinea is expensive but
potentially very rewarding for oil firms, given the similar
geology to oil-rich Brazil, where billions of barrels of oil
have been discovered.
The companies that have signed contracts are: Impact, Repsol
, Marathon, Noble Energy, Petronas and
The deals end over nine months of arduous negotiations in
which the list bidders has changed several times.
Two companies - U.S. oil major Exxon Mobil and
British oil explorer Ophir - invited in late July to
enter a final round of negotiations did not feature on the
ministry's final list. Australia's Woodside was not invited to
the final round, yet was named as a winner.
(Reporting by Gerauds Obangome; Writing by Emma Farge; Editing
by Erica Billingham)