KARACHI - Pakistan Petroleum, the nation’s second-biggest explorer, expects to win 30 per cent of the oil and gas blocks the government plans to auction as part of a plan to ease energy shortages.

As many as 35 exploration blocks may be put up for bidding in the next few weeks, chief executive Asim Murtaza Khan said in an interview.

The Karachi-based company will explore onshore oil fields itself and seek overseas partners for those in the sea, he said.

Pakistan raised gas prices last month as part of a new oil policy that aims to attract investors end blackouts that have shut factories and led to violent protests.

The government will buy 90 per cent of the gas produced from the new fields at a maximum $6.6 per million British thermal units, compared with $4 earlier. “You need to offer something to the investor to come to Pakistan and not go elsewhere,- Khan said in his Karachi office. “That extra is now available.

Middle Eastern, Gulf-based, European and Canadian companies are in touch with us and are expressing interest.- Overseas companies that partner with Pakistani explorers may need to invest as much as $300 million, Khan said. “The policy has been unveiled at a time when Pakistan is facing acute natural gas shortage,- Furqan Punjani, deputy head of research at BMA Capital Management in Karachi, said.

“Competitive product prices, especially for natural gas, and incentives to increase production are the key highlights.

Pakistan Petroleum’s profit rose 30 per cent to 40.9 billion rupees ($432.5 million) in the 12 months to June 30 from a year earlier. Sales gained 23 per cent to 96.2 billion rupees.