It is understood that a shortlist of four banks was drawn up from among the original 11 bidders and Credit Suisse First Boston (CSFB)was the selected frontrunner.

The fact that no mandate has yet been awarded has led some bankers who have been following the transaction closely to question whether Jersey-registered Dolphin Energy (DEL) will, in fact, choose to move ahead without a financial adviser for the project.

‘From the beginning there were two schools of thought within Dolphin,’ says a banker who bid for the mandate. ‘One wanted to see a professional, world-class financial adviser appointed as soon as possible, while the other questioned whether the advice they were going to receive was really worth paying top dollar for. Perhaps the second camp has the ascendancy now.’

‘We don’t have a mandate at the moment, but there is still a possibility that we will receive a mandate,’ says a senior CSFB official.

The other banks understood to have been shortlisted for the advisory mandate are Societe Generale, BNP Paribasand HSBC Investment Banking(MEED 3:8:01).

A decision is still awaited from DEL on the selection of a new foreign partner in the project to take the 24.5 per cent stake given up by Enron Corporationin May. The new partner will join TotalFinaElf, which also owns a 24.5 per cent position in the project company. The remaining 51 per cent is held by Abu Dhabi-based UAE Offsets Group (UOG).

Companies understood to have shown serious interest in becoming the new partner include ExxonMobil Corporation, Conocoand Occidental Petroleum Corporation, all of the US, and the UK’s BP (MEED 18:5:01).

‘There is a possibility that UOG has decided to postpone the award of an advisory mandate until they have selected the new foreign partner,’ says an interested banker. ‘There would be some sense in this, but either way all these delays are stretching out and adding up.’