By Jason Simpkins
CNOOC Ltd. (NYSE ADR: CEO) and Sinopec Corp. (NYSE ADR: SHI) have agreed to buy a 20% stake in an oil field off the shore of Angola for $1.3 billion, illustrating China's persistent attempts to acquire resources for its economic expansion at a time of weakness for many Western oil majors.
CNOOC and Sinopec will form a 50-50 joint venture to buy the stake in the so-called Angola Block 32, which has 12 previously announced discoveries. The Chinese energy giants purchased the stake from U.S.-based Marathon Oil Corp. (NYSE: MRO), but the sale is still subject to government and regulatory approval.
Marathon's existing partners in the block - France's Total SA (NYSE ADR: TOT), Portugal's Galp Energia SGPS SA, Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM), and Sonangal, Angola's state-owned oil company - have a right of first refusal. Marathon will keep a 10% interest in the block.
The oil field "is a significant resource base with estimated recoverable light crude oil reserves of 1.5 billion barrels," Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (NYSE: GS) analysts wrote in a report, according to MarketWatch. "The $1.3 billion consideration compares with our valuation of $1.4 billion to $1.65 billion and Marathon's publicly disclosed offer of $1.8 billion to $2 billion."
The acquisition will build on CNOOC's "growing deepwater exposure" and values the recoverable reserves at $4.30 a barrel, the analysts said.
The acquisition will also build on two of Beijing's broader objectives: Securing long-term energy resources and expanding its presence in underdeveloped, and riskier, countries in Africa and the Middle East.
Since last fall, China has been using the Western world's financial crisis as an opportunity to stock up on commodities while prices are low.
Sinopec recently paid $7.22 billion to acquire the Addax Petroleum Corp., a Canada-based energy company with operations in West Africa and Iraq.
Meanwhile, Sinopec's rival, China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC), made its own foray into Iraq, winning the first contract in more than 30 years to develop the Rumaila oil field.
China's involvement in Africa has an even richer history.
In 2006, Beijing hosted the China-Africa Cooperation Forum - an event attended by more than 40 African heads of state. At the forum, China unveiled $9 billion in preferential loans, export credits, and trade incentives - all part of a strategic plan to achieve a preferential status with key African nations.
The meeting was more than a mere publicity stunt to play up Beijing's humanitarian efforts. It was a symbolic acknowledgment of growing cooperation between the regions.
China has invested tens of billions of dollars directly into African-infrastructure and social-development projects, all in an effort to tighten its grip on the continent's resources. Some examples:
- In Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, office blocks, military headquarters and a refurbished stadium are all the work of planners from Beijing.
- In Uganda, the new State House was built with Chinese money.
- In the city of Rwanda, Chinese companies built 80% of all new roads.
- And in Nigeria, China's Civil Engineering Construction Corp. is building an $8.3 billion railroad linking Lagos and Kano.
And Money Morning Investment Director Keith Fitz-Gerald says this is only the beginning.
"It's a virtual certainty that China will maintain this policy going forward," Fitz-Gerald said. "My contacts in China and Africa have told me point blank that China's leaders 'don't care about human rights or nukes or hostile governments.' What matters is anyone who provides oil to China no matter what the rest of the world thinks."
News and Related Story Links:
Cnooc, Sinopec shares up on Angola stake buy
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Iraq's Oil Bounty Ripe for Chinese Investment