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Egypt signs oil and gas exploration deals with Shell, Apex

Logo of Shell is seen at the 20th Middle East Oil & Gas Show and Conference (MOES 2017) in Manama, Bahrain, March 7, 2017. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian Oil Minister Tarek El Molla has signed three oil and gas exploration deals for 16 new fields in the Western Desert worth at least $81.4 million in total with Royal Dutch Shell and the U.S.-based Apex International Energy.

The Petroleum Ministry said in a statement that the first deal would see Shell invest $35.5 million, and the other two would see Apex, which is operating in Egypt for the first time, invest a combined $45.9 million on two projects.

Egypt, which used to be a net energy exporter, has become a net importer in recent years as consumption has increased while production has fallen.

The government has been on a drive to lure back foreign investors to its energy sector in an effort to address a squeeze on public finances.

In December, Egypt accepted six bids for oil and gas exploration worth up to $200 million

(This version of the story corrects name of company to Apex International Energy)

Reporting by Nadine Awadalla; Editing by Ahmed Aboulenein and Louise Heavens

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