Pakistan Receives $176 Million in Licensing Round

Pakistan said it received $176 million in bids for the sale of its controlling interests in nine oil and gas concessions, representing the total of the highest bids for each field. "It is extremely close to what we had estimated," Privatization Minister Altaf Saleem said in a statement.

He said the cabinet committee on privatization would decide on the successful bidders on Tuesday. Pakistan's privatization program, designed to cut the country's foreign debt of $38 billion, is key to military President Pervez Musharraf's initiative to revive the economy. The most valuable concession, a 40 percent stake in the Badin I oil and gas field, received the highest bid of $131.5 million from BP and Occidental Petroleum Corp together, the government said. BP and Occidental already each have 30 percent stakes in the Badin I field and would share the field if they won the bid.

At the start of the year, Badin I had oil reserves of 61.97 million barrels and gas reserves of 318.09 billion cubic feet, official figures show. The two firms also placed the highest bid of $8.5 million for a 25 percent stake in the Badin II oil and gas field. They already have 25.5 percent stakes in this field, with Pakistan's Oil and Gas Development Co Ltd holding 24 percent.

The wealthy army welfare group, the Fauji Foundation, offered $18.69 million for a 17.5 percent stake in Pariwali oil and gas field. Pakistan Oil Field Ltd offered $11.33 million for 11 percent in the Adhi field. Other bidders included Western Acquisitions Inc., Attock Oil Company and Pyramid Oil Company, the government said.

Pakistan's ambitious privatization scheme was badly hit by the aftermath of the September 11 attacks on the United States and the subsequent war in neighboring Afghanistan. But officials say the program is now back on track.

Saleem said these events delayed the privatization of state interests in oil and gas companies by almost six months. "Had the September 11 incident not taken place, this transaction would have been done on October 19," he said.