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SPC buy boost for oil 'price setting'
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PetroChina's proposed $1 billion purchase of a 45.5 stake in Singapore Petroleum Co will give the Chinese company more leverage and flexibility in oil trading, analysts said yesterday.

As a move to gain a foothold in Asia's largest oil trading center, the deal may enhance domestic companies' influence on global oil pricing, they said.

The Beijing-based PetroChina said late on Sunday that it would buy 45.5 percent of Singapore Petroleum Co (SPC) for S$6.25 ($4.25) a share, from Keppel Corp.

The deal is still subject to Chinese regulatory approval, PetroChina said in a statement.

After the deal, SPC will become "a new platform for the implementation of our international strategy and will provide a broader foundation and stable path for development," PetroChina said in the statement.

SPC jointly owns the third largest oil refiner in Singapore, which has a capacity of 285,000 barrels per day.

In 2008, the company made a net profit of S$230 million, on net assets of S$1.7 billion.

It is the first time that PetroChina has bought an overseas listed company, and it is also one among the few deals where it has bought downstream assets, Guosen Securities said in a report yesterday.

"The main aim of the deal is to gain more downstream assets, which is oil refining and petrochemicals production," said the report.

"The deal will also increase PetroChina's oil trading business, as well as boost its offshore oil business," it said.

Yin Xiaodong, analyst with CITIC Securities, said that the deal would optimize PetroChina's oil refining capacity in southern China.

Currently, China's second largest oil company, Sinopec has a much stronger presence in the refined oil products market in southern China.

China National Petroleum Corp, parent of PetroChina, said it has been making continual efforts to increase its refining capacity. It is now building or expanding big refineries in southern regions such as Guangxi and Guangdong.

Yin said the deal comes at "a good time", as many overseas oil and gas assets have become cheaper due to the financial crisis.

PetroChina President Zhou Jiping earlier said that overseas mergers and acquisitions would be a key strategic development target for the company, and now was a "good time" to do so since oil prices have fallen 60 percent from last July's record high of $147 a barrel.

In an online survey yesterday by China's largest Internet portal Sina, over 80 percent of netizens supported PetroChina's acquisition for SPC.

The survey also showed that over 70 percent of netizens think it was the best time for Chinese companies to buy more overseas resources as crude oil prices are relatively lower.

Shares of PetroChina yesterday rose 1.87 percent to close at 13.1 yuan in Shanghai.

(China Daily May 25, 2009)

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