Subject: LUSA: Stanley Ho could enter three-firm venture in offshore oil bid

East Timor: Stanley Ho could enter three-firm venture in offshore oil bid

Dili, Feb. 24 (Lusa) - Macau casino magnate Stanley Ho could join a three-company consortium, including Portugal's Galp, in a bid to operate offshore oil blocks in East Timor's first-ever licensing round, an industry source said Friday.

Galp has advised the Dili government it is joining forces with Brasil's Petrobras and Petronas of Malaysia to present a joint bid to operate "two or three" blocks in the landmark licensing round launched Jan. 27, the Portuguese firm's executive administrator, Fernando Gomes, told Lusa.

Bidding for exploration rights in the 11 Timor Sea blocks, inside Dili's exclusive economic zone, was originally set to close March 17 but the process has been extended a fortnight.

Ho, in Timor this week at a conference to promote Portuguese investment in the new nation, became keen to take part in Galp's joint venture with the Brazilian and Malaysian state-controlled firms after he was briefed on the initiative by Galp executives, said Gomes.

The decision to allow Ho to take some financial stake in the consortium, which will create a new company in Timor to control the hydrocarbon project, will depend on all three companies involved in the bid, added the Galp executive.

"We are examining this request from Stanley Ho, who can only have a financial participation. However, this participation can only be implemented at a later date".

The joint bid to operate deepwater blocks by the trio of energy firms is to be formally submitted to the Dili authorities within two weeks, said Gomes.

The 11 offshore blocks are in a 28,776-square-kilometer area ranging from deepwater to coastal waters and bids for operating licenses will be opened March 31.

Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, who also serves as Timor's natural resources minister, is scheduled to announce the result of the licensing round April 18.



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