VICTORIA Oct 31 Seychelles has pushed back the
bidding process to license 30 oil and gas exploration blocks and
is now likely to invite bids next year, a senior energy official
said on Wednesday.
East Africa has become a hotbed of exploration after several
oil discoveries in the area, including oil in Uganda and natural
gas finds in Tanzania and Mozambique.
The Seychelles National Oil Company in April announced it
was launching bids for 30 blocks, but this was delayed, Patrick
Joseph, the company's exploration manager, told Reuters.
"We now expect to launch the bids early next year," he said.
Joseph said the country would have liked the process to
combine a licensing round and negotiations with potential
explorers but would wait for an expected recommendation from the
International Monetary Fund on how best to set it up.
So far, Afren Plc and Australia's WHL Energy
are the only companies holding exploration licences in
Seychelles, although a few others have expressed interest.
The country of around 85,000 people, best known as a luxury
holiday destination, expects economic growth this year and next,
showing a strong recovery from 2008, when foreign exchange
reserves were nearly exhausted.
(Additional reporting by Kelly Gilblom in Nairobi; Editing by
George Obulutsa and Jane Baird)