An obscure Dutch-registered offshore player called Winsple Netherlands BV snapped up two large onshore blocks in the Atyrau region of Kazakhstan at the country’s first online licensing auction, according to the country’s energy ministry.

Winsple committed to pay more than $140 million for the Zaburunye and Sarayshyk blocks, promoted by Kazakh authorities as containing prospective oil resources at both shallow and deeper horizons.

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Winsple has no known track record in exploration or production and employs just a single executive director.

The firm was incorporated in 2017 and is affiliated to Winsple Holding, a privately held entity incorporated in Luxembourg in 2015.

The Winsple companies list their corporate activity as providing financial services and investment advice.

In the auction held at the end of the last week, Winsple was acting through its Kazakh-registered subsidiary Petro Qazaq, according to the ministry.

The subsidiary was incorporated in the city of Almaty in October, a week after the Kazakh energy ministry announced its plan to auction the blocks.

In the same auction, several Kazakh investors promised to pay much smaller amounts for other five blocks in the auction, with the remaining three blocks attracting no interest from bidders.

Kazakh-registered Sapa Investment will pay almost $2 million to authorities for licences for the Begaydar and Koshalak acreages, according to the ministry.

Sapa Investment said in a disclosure to authorities that its beneficiaries are Kazakh nationals Sanzhar Omarov and Damir Baltabayev, neither of whom are known to have previous links to the oil sector.

Three remaining tracts – Karabau, Sagiz and Balkuduk – fell into the hands of Atyrau businessmen who already operate minor oilfields in the region through South Oil and KazPetrol Group. These two firms produced a combined 5.6 million barrels in 2019, according to the association of Kazakh oilfield service contractors KazService.

All winning bidders have to pay the committed amounts to Kazakh authorities before 13 January to secure the licences won, according to the energy ministry.