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Oil Giants to Tap Sinopec
The world’s top three publicly traded oil companies have agreed to invest as much as US$1.83 billion in China’s largest refiner and gain a greater foothold in the country’s retail gasoline market.

The deal comes as executives from China Petroleum and Chemical Corp - Sinopec - get ready for an investor road show to lay out plans for a multi-billion-dollar overseas public offering, sources said.

The three companies, Exxon Mobil Corp, BP Amoco Plc and Royal Dutch/Shell Group, said that in return for their investment, they will be allowed to expand their shares in the nation’s gasoline retail market through separate joint ventures with Sinopec.

Sinopec plans to list in Hong Kong, New York and London in mid-October.

Although the amount of the shares hasn’t been announced formally, an official with Sinopec confirmed reports that the value will be between US$2.5 billion to US$3.5 billion.

Sinopec reported yesterday that it has just received approval from the US Securities and Exchange Commission for the listing. An authorization from London is expected soon, the Sinopec official said.

Among the company’s three foreign oil partners, Exxon Mobil said it would take up to 20 percent of the IPO, investing as much as US$1 billion. Shell said it would take 14 percent, or a maximum of US$430 million. And BP Amoco said it would buy up to US$400 million of the shares offered.

In addition, ABB Asea Brown Boveri Ltd., the world’s largest electrical engineering company, will invest US$100 million, Sinopec said.

Hong Kong-listed Hutchison Whampoa Ltd and Sun Hung Kai Properties Ltd. also are studying prospects for buying in, Bloomberg reported.

“Investment interest from the world’s industry giants obviously will propel the public offering,” said Shi Lei, an analyst with Haitong Securities. “And it comes at a good time, thanks to the recovering global market.”

Sinopec said it plans to use the money from the shares sale to expand its refineries and gasoline station networks as well as improve its management.

In return for the new capital, China will further relax its tight control on foreign oil companies, which have longed to gain a larger presence in the domestic retail market in refined oil.

Sinopec currently operates 17,000 gas stations nationwide. The number is expected to reach 20,000 by the end of this year, the company said.

Stations controlled by foreign companies total only about 400. Shanghai has no foreign-invested gas stations.


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