Brazil had previously approved eight firms, but was still reviewing technical and legal documents for France's Total (TOT), Colombia's Ecopetrol (EC) and the Brazilian unit of Portugal's Galp Energia (GLPEF.PK, GLPEY.PK).
Asian state-owned companies dominate the list of participants: India's ONGC, Malaysia's Petronas, Colombia's Ecopetrol (EC), China's Cnooc (CEO) and China National Petroleum (PTR); China's Sinopec (SNP) will take part through joint ventures with Brazilian units of Spain's Repsol (REPYY.PK, REPYF.PK) and Portugal's Galp Energia (GLPEF.PK).
Analysts blame the lack of interest on new rules drawn up by Brazil's government that place development and profits under greater state control; too many companies don't want "the trouble of dealing with Petrobras (PBR) and the government. You can get good oil assets elsewhere without that."
Petrobas (PBR -2.6%) has an eye on Eni's (E +0.8%) 33% stake in Portuguese oil company Galp (GLPEF.PK), and has reportedly offered €3.5B - well short of the €4.7B Eni is looking for. Eni says it will either take a controlling stake in Galp, or sell it.