Friday, September 7, 2012

Burma’s energy tender delayed till end of year: report

Friday, 07 September 2012 13:28 Mizzima News

In order to meet the transparency standards of the Western energy majors, Burma has delayed a tender offer until the end of the year.

An official who was not authorized to speak told Reuters news agency that the tender was expected to be launched this month.

A natural gas production rig in the Yetagun Field.

The official said it was postponed after the government was approached by several Western oil firms, including ConocoPhillips, Hess Corp, Royal Dutch Shell, BP, BG Group and Australia's Woodside Petroleum.

“Some of the oil companies, like Shell, are very strict about international standards like transparency, environmental, social and biodiversity impacts,” the official said on the sidelines of an industry conference in Rangoon.

“Therefore our leaders instructed us to make ours be in line with the international standards, so we are taking some more time on this. I guess we will be able to launch the second round around the end of this year,” he said.

The government is expected to offer more than 10 offshore and around 10 onshore blocks to foreign investors.

The tender follows Burma’s largest oil and gas offering in August last year, which saw nine out of 18 onshore blocks snapped up by foreign firms.

On July 26, Mizzima reported that US companies may be holding back at this time because of the fluid nature of Burmese business laws and financial system, which have only undergone changes starting in 2011 after decades of control by the former military government, which lacked transparency and was rampantly corrupt.

A new foreign investment law is under debate in Parliament now, but there is still the issue of the Burmese judicial system, which opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has warned is not based on the rule of law according to international standards.

Also, there is the issue of the Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise, a state-owned company that allocates all oil and gas rights and holds a majority stake in all onshore and offshore blocks, which means all energy firms investing in Burma become partners with the state-run company.

US companies also face new rules created by the US government for doing business in Burma that require them to submit annual reports on issues such as human rights, workers' rights and environmental stewardship if they invest more than $500,000 in Burma.

Foreign firms working in Burma must also set up joint ventures with local companies before investing in Burma’s oil and gas industry, according to Burmese laws.

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