* Madagascar seeks to entice foreign investors after coup
* Govt has licensed 24 exploration blocks, 225 available
* New govt seeks to revive faltering economy
By George Obulutsa
NAIROBI, Oct 17 (Reuters) - Madagascar plans to issue licenses for three on-shore and up to 50 off-shore exploration blocks next year once parliament approves a new petroleum law, a senior energy ministry official said on Friday.
Madagascar, famed for its wildlife and eyed by foreign companies for its minerals and its hydrocarbon prospects, has struggled to court oil and mining giants since a coup in 2009, which also prompted international donors to cut off ties.
President Hery Rajaonarimampianina, who took office in January after a peaceful vote in December, has pledged to woo foreign investors and alleviate poverty which deepened after the 2009 coup when the economy slumped. The World Bank and other donors have since re-established ties and resumed aid flows.
“The new petroleum code will be submitted to parliament at the end of this year, or for its next ordinary session in May 2015,” Pascal Velonarivo, Director General of Hydrocarbons at the Ministry of Hydrocarbons, Madagascar, told an east African oil and gas conference in the Kenyan capital Nairobi.
“After the adoption of the new petroleum code by parliament ... Madagascar will launch a bid round.”
Velonarivo later told reporters the offshore blocks to be offered for licensing will number 30 to 50, with another three onshore blocks to be auctioned.
“It must be next year,” he said when asked about timing of the licensing round, adding all the required data for the blocks to be licensed had already been gathered.
Madagascar has a total 249 exploration blocks, of which 24 have so far been licensed to exploration companies.
Among the companies that hold licenses in Madagascar are Exxon Mobil, Tullow Oil, Madagascar Oil and Afren
Velonarivo said among the changes in the revised law would be separation of roles for the state-run OMNIS, which acts as both a regulator and oil company, and revamping environmental regulations.
“The new law is like the upgrading of the former law. There is confusion about the place of OMNIS, which plays the role of national oil company and the regulator. There is some upgrading about the environment,” he said. (editing by Drazen Jorgic in Nairobi and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)