Malaysia is negotiating with US-based seabed exploration firm Ocean Infinity to resume the search for Malaysia Airlines MH370, which vanished three years ago in the southern Indian Ocean with 239 people aboard.
The disappearance of the aircraft en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur ranks among the world's greatest aviation mysteries after Australia, China and Malaysia ended a fruitless $200 million search effort in January.
This week, Malaysia said it had received proposals to continue the search from Ocean Infinity, Dutch firm Fugro and an unidentified Malaysian company.
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Ocean Infinity beat out the competition and the government has begun negotiations with it, Malaysia's deputy transport minister Aziz Kaprawi said on Thursday.
"Yes, we are negotiating with Ocean Infinity, but the agreement has not been finalised," he told Reuters, but declined to comment on the potential reward for the plane's discovery.
"It was an offer on an open basis, that we will only honour if the aircraft is found."
The firm had made an offer on a "no-cure, no-fee" basis, according to a letter, seen by Reuters, that was sent to passengers' families on Thursday.
Australia and China were informed of the negotiation process, but only Australia had informally agreed to Malaysia's choice, Mr Aziz said.
"It is still under discussion with China," he added, but declined to elaborate on China's possible concerns.
Ocean Infinity could not confirm the award of a contract, "but good progress has been made", a spokesman said in a statement.