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CNPC gets US$30b to fund acquisitions
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China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC), the country's largest oil and gas producer, said yesterday it had received a $30 billion loan to finance its overseas expansion as the company accelerated oil assets acquisitions this year.

Under an agreement with China Development Bank (CDB), the loan will be provided over five years at a discounted interest rate, CNPC said in a statement.

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The move will greatly help CNPC to "achieve its overseas strategy and further enhance the nation's energy security", said Jiang Jiemin, president of the company.

CDB has helped fund CNPC's many overseas projects including oil-for-loan deals with Russia and Venezuela, the construction of a central Asia natural gas pipeline and the 2005 takeover of PetroKazakhstan, said the statement.

"Due to the financial crisis, valuations of many oil and gas assets have dropped. This has presented domestic companies with good opportunities to quicken their pace in overseas acquisitions," said Lin Boqiang, director of the Center for Energy Economic Research of China at Xiamen University.

A source with CNPC earlier told China Daily that the company would speed up its development in regions such as Africa and South America this year in a bid to boost China's quest for energy security.

Overseas acquisitions will be a key strategy for CNPC this year and now is a good time to strike since oil prices have fallen more than 50 percent from last July's record high of $147 a barrel, Zhou Jiping, vice-president of CNPC, told reporters earlier.

China is now the world's second largest oil importer. This year State-owned companies have successfully made seven acquisitions of overseas oil and gas assets worth a total value of 82 billion yuan ($12 billion), CNPC said in a news letter on its website.

This represents an 80 percent increase compared with the same period last year, it said.

Of the deals, the largest was China's second largest oil company Sinopec Group's $7.51 billion takeover of Geneva-based oil and gas producer Addax Petroleum Corp. This is currently the largest overseas takeover by a single Chinese company.

The latest deal was earlier this month, when PetroChina, the listed arm of CNPC, agreed to pay $1.7 billion for a stake in two oil sands projects in Canada to tap the rich deposits there.

Analysts said that domestic oil companies' quickened pace in overseas expansion was in line with China's increasing oil imports. According to a recent report by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), 64.5 percent of the country's oil consumption is likely to be met by imports in 2020.

The gap between domestic consumption and production is the main cause for the increase in imports. CASS statistics showed that China's oil production would see a gradual decline after 2020.

Analysts said China should further diversify its oil importing sources to ensure sustainable supplies. At present the Middle East, Africa and Asia-Pacific are the three main regions for Chinese oil imports.

Fu Chengyu, president of China's leading offshore oil producer CNOOC, told China Daily earlier that domestic companies must remain calm and clear-headed about overseas mergers and acquisitions, as the risks involved in such deals are on the rise.

CNOOC is now taking a "patient approach", he said.

(China Daily September 10, 2009)

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