UPDATE 6-Egypt woos Gulf investors, promises repayments to oil firms

Wed Dec 4, 2013 11:47am EST
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* Government says it owes $6 billion to foreign oil firms

* Egypt needs Gulf aid, renewal of confidence in economy

* Foreign reserves under pressure since Mubarak fell

By Asma Alsharif and Shadia Nasralla

CAIRO, Dec 4 (Reuters) - Egypt promised on Wednesday to pay $1.5 billion of the $6 billion it says it owes foreign oil companies, aiming to restore investor confidence in an economy damaged by nearly three years of political turmoil.

Officials speaking at an investment conference pitched at Gulf Arab states and businessmen tried to allay concerns ranging from legal uncertainty to the foreign currency black market.

"There is approval to pay $1.5 billion," Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi told the gathering. He said the arrears had discouraged investment in the critical energy sector.

Gulf oil-producers rallied behind Egypt after the army ousted Islamist President Mohamed Mursi in July, pledging billions of dollar in financial support. Saudi Arabia and most other Gulf states deeply distrust Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood.

The state-owned Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation (EGPC) plans bid rounds this month for 15 oil and gas exploration blocks in the Gulf of Suez and the eastern and western deserts, Adel Saeed, EGPC's deputy CEO for agreements told Reuters on the sidelines of the gathering.   Continued...