Russia?s Novatek to bid for Cyprus exploration licenses

OAO Novatek, Russia?s second-biggest natural gas producer, is looking at bidding for licenses to explore off Cyprus after the island nation?s first gas discovery attracted global companies.

Leonid Mikhelson, Novatek?s billionaire chief executive officer, flew to Cyprus for talks this week, Neoklis Sylikiotis, Cyprus?s commerce and industry minister, told reporters in Nicosia on Thursday.

The country is accepting applications for a second licensing round until May 11.

Houston-based Noble Energy Inc reported the first discovery off Cyprus?s coast in December, with results from the Cyprus A-1 well indicating as much as 8 trillion cubic feet of gas.

The find prompted ?a lot of interest? in the area, Sylikiotis said.

Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias also met with Mikhelson and a Russian delegation including OAO Gazprombank Chairman Andrei Akimov, said Phidias Pilides, the chairman of the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Novatek?s press service confirmed the company is considering participating in the announced tenders.

The Siberian company?s natural gas production and sales are now limited to Russia where state-run OAO Gazprom, the world?s biggest producer, controls the pipeline network and exports.

Novatek ended a concession agreement last year to its only exploration project outside Russia, the El-Arish project in Egypt, after drilling didn?t find commercial prospects.