‘The deadline for technical bids has been delayed untilmid-April in order to allowmore time for companies to prepare their bids, and thereby maximise the number ofbidders,’ a senior representative at state petrochemicals company Entreprise Nationale d’Industrie Petrochimique (ENIP) told MEED on27 March. The extension is the second delay to the bidding process following the postponement of the original January deadline to mid-March.Subsequent alignment of technical bids is likely to take three months, with commercials expected to be submitted in July. Successful contractors will be selected on the same day, but contract signature is not expected until the end of the year. ‘The complexity of the contracts – which will include front-end engineering (FEED) and design, offtakes and ground leasing – means that it is likely to be a long time before work starts,’ says a source close to the project. Expressions of interest for the multi-billion dollar programme were initially sought in early 2005. Foreign partners are expected to take a majority stake in each of the projects (Petrochemicals, MEED Special Report, 28:10:05, pages 48-50).