UPDATE 1-Colombia oil auction sells 27 pct of blocks offered
(Adds auction results, government comment, byline)
By Peter Murphy
CARTAGENA, Colombia, July 23 (Reuters) - Colombia drew bids for fewer than one third of the blocks it offered at its 2014 oil round on Wednesday, the government said, with most interest in more familiar and explored regions, which may make it tougher to boost stagnant reserves.
Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Exxon Mobil Corp, Anadarko Petroleum Corp and Spain's Repsol SA were among the biggest of 19 companies that bid for 26 of 95 blocks offered by Latin America's fourth-biggest oil producer.
The blocks are expected to bring around $1.4 billion in investment, the Energy Ministry and National Hydrocarbons Agency said, hailing as "positive" results that fell a bit short of the 30 percent of blocks on which they expected bids.
Officials had estimated that 40 percent of the blocks would be auctioned off, and some participants expressed surprise that there was not more interest in offshore blocks or high risk high-reward areas for which little research exists.
"This is a round of frontier areas. Companies are cautious in frontier areas. These are very unexplored areas," Orlando Cabrales, vice minister for energy, told reporters.
The bidding round is important to Colombia, with about 1 million barrels of daily output, as an opportunity to draw investment and boost reserves that have stagnated at around seven years' worth of production or 2.45 billion barrels as of the end of 2013.
Cabrales said the oil round took place at a time when the oil industry is focusing more on assets offering short-term returns. Consistent with that, smaller, more familiar areas drew the strongest bidder interest on Wednesday. Continuación...