Iraq will give international oil companies an extra month to prepare for its fourth oil and gas licensing round after delaying the auction until 11 April.

Scheduled for 7-8 March, the auction for 12 new gas and oil exploration blocks across the country will now be held on 11-12 April, says Oil Ministry spokesman Assem Jihad, Associated Press reports.

The Oil Ministry had originally planned to hold the auction on 25-26 January.

More than 46 oil firms have been prequalified to participate in the auction and several have asked for extra time to study the model contracts and block data. The initial contracts for 12 oil and gas sites in Iraq were presented to 46 prequalified international oil companies (IOCs) at a road show in Jordan in October and the final tender protocol in December (MEED 2:10:11).