Cyprus has received six applications from eight companies for licensing rights in three offshore blocks up for hydrocarbon exploration.
The east Mediterranean island sits in the Levant basin, where neighbouring Israel and Egypt have made some of world's the biggest natural gas discoveries in the past decade.
"Taking into account difficult industry conditions worldwide, we designed a process attracting companies which are financially robust and have experience both in research and in exploitation," Yiorgos Lakkotrypis, Cyprus's energy minister, said.
The names of the bidders will be disclosed after a cabinet meeting next week, Lakkotrypis said.
Exploration is taking place along the southern rims of the war-divided island in territory controlled by Cyprus's internationally recognised government. Turkey, which supports a breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in north Cyprus, says the research violates the rights of that community.
A consortium of Italy's ENI and Korea's KoGas have a contract with Cyprus for exploration over three offshore blocks. French oil major Total has exploration rights over one block under a second licensing round which took place in 2012.
In that process where 12 blocks were up for grabs, 15 companies and consortiums submitted expressions of interest.
Cyprus found an estimated 4.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in one prospect in late 2011.
(Reporting by Michele Kambas)