Commodity trader Gunvor is tipped to win Pakistan's bumper liquefied natural gas (LNG) tender, traders participating in the process said, beating a host of rivals, including Trafigura, Malaysia's Petronas and Spain's Gas Natural Fenosa.

Pakistan LNG launched a five-year supply tender and a 15-year tender last year to buy a combined 240 shipments of LNG, drawing a lot of interest from suppliers eager to sell gas in an oversupplied market.

The five-year tender for approximately 60 shipments is the most attractive for trading houses which will struggle to commit to longer periods without direct access to supply.

Gunvor's existing presence as an LNG supplier to Pakistan, among other factors, may give it an edge over rivals, the traders said.

The list of bidders is a who's who of top commodity traders and oil firms, with Engie, Trafigura, Gunvor, Glencore, SK, Oman Trading International, Noble , Eni, Petronas, Shell, Gas Natural Fenosa and CNOOC in the mix, according to trade sources.

Participating traders say potential profit margins in the tender are under pressure from aggressive bidding.

Multi-year LNG tender deals tend to be linked to Brent crude oil prices, expressed as a percentage and recent extreme price volatility has made some players wary of bidding too low for fear of winning an unprofitable deal, they said.

Brent-linked values have fallen below 11 percent in some cases, though more are held to be above 12 percent, the traders said.

Pakistan LNG Ltd has delayed reviewing the bids by a few days to Jan. 19, raising the prospect of delays to the award. But trade sources said this was a formality linked to the buyer's decision to hire consultants to appraise the technical aspects of the bids.

They said the tender bids were straightforward and expected awards to be made on time, though bids are valid until the end of March, giving the buyer leeway to delay if needed.

Supplies under the tender are to start from July.

Unlike recent Egyptian LNG tenders, where trade houses picked up the bulk of volumes, major producer Qatar is not offering to back traders this time around to avoid undercutting its own long-term gas supply deals into Pakistan, according to one senior trader.

For this reason, some traders believe Gunvor's nearest rival for the Pakistan deal is not necessarily Trafigura, which is being backed by U.S. producer Cheniere and Shell, but other LNG producers participating in the tender, such as Gas Natural Fenosa and Petronas.

Gunvor is sourcing part of its supply for the five-year Pakistan tender from Mitsui, a Japanese trading house, traders said. Gunvor was expected to get direct access to LNG supply sometime after the Novatek-led Yamal LNG plant in the Arctic Peninsula gets underway in late 2017.