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Exxon leads record oil auction for Brazil


Rio de Janeiro (AFP)

ExxonMobil led the way Thursday in Brazil's record $2.4 billion auction of offshore oil fields.

Exxon snapped up eight blocks in partnership with other majors keen on the rich fields close to Brazil's ultra-deep, but also hugely promising, "pre-salt" reserves.

The auction in Rio de Janeiro, which also saw Shell, Statoil and Brazilian national champion Petrobras among the buyers, raised 8.014 billion reais -- more than six times the minimum expected by the National Petroleum Agency (ANP).

Of the 47 blocks on offer, 22 sold and two big blocks were withdrawn at the last minute, the agency said in a statement.

The ANP had to pull the two blocks, which had been forecasted to raise a minimum of 3.55 billion reais, after a court ruled that they were part of the exclusive pre-salt territory, which is subject to different auction rules.

"We offer our apologies to the investors who had planned to make offers for these two blocks," ANP president Decio Oddone said at the start of the auction.

"Even if we are frustrated, we are sure that will take nothing away from our brilliant auction."

Those two pre-salt blocks could come up at a new sale by the end of the year, he said.

At a pre-salt auction in September last year, the Brazilian government raked in more than $1 billion, with Exxon and Petrobras teaming up for some of the most promising blocks in the Campos field.

Brazil is emerging slowly from its worst recession in history and the government hopes to raise some $80 billion in oil block auctions by the end of 2019.

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