Without the participation of Petrobras and other large global oil companies for the first time, the 13th round of bidding for areas of oil exploration in Brazil finished with the sale of just 14% of the areas on offer.

Sale confers the right to explore for oil reserves, though there is no guarantee that the oil found will be economically viable. The result of this round of bidding is the worst since the fifth round, which took place in 2003.

In the auction on Wednesday (7), the National Agency of Oil, Natural Gas and Biofuels (ANP) sold 35 areas for exploration, out of 266.

The buyers committed to paying R$121.1 million (US$31.2 million) for the right to explore, and investing at least R$340 million (US$87.5 million).

If all the areas had been sold for their minimum price, it would have raised R$978.7 million (US$252 million). Of the ten basins with areas on sale, six did not receive a single bid.

The lack of interest was expected by the market. The recent fall in oil prices has reduced expectations of return on investment, and the Brazilian economic crisis has increased risk. The greater the risk, the greater the expected profit has to be for a company to invest.

It was the first time since the beginning of the auctions in 1999 that Petrobras has not acquired any areas. The company’s absence is down to its recent cuts in investment in oil exploration.