Canada's Harper expects foreign investment decisions very soon

Thu Nov 8, 2012 7:39am EST

* Decisions "very near" on framework and individual bids

* Clearest indication yet that decisions will be simultaneous

* China's CNOOC has bid for Nexen, Malaysia's Petronas for Progress

* Sources say state-run Indian firms want stake in oil sands

By Randall Palmer

BANGALORE, India, Nov 8 (Reuters) - Canada will make decisions very soon on foreign investment proposals it is considering and on the broader framework for dealing with such investment, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Thursday.

"The government of Canada has some very important decisions before it on when it will take public positions in the very near future along with positions on some of the broader policy questions," Harper told a news conference during a visit to India.

He declined to say whether Indian state-owned enterprises would be welcome to invest in Canada.

The important decisions he was referring to were how to deal with a $15.1 billion bid by China's state-owned CNOOC Ltd for Canadian oil firm Nexen Inc, and a C$5.17 billion ($5.17 billion) one by Malaysia's state oil firm Petronas for Progress Energy Resources Corp.

The government initially turned Petronas down, giving it until Nov. 18 to put together a revised proposal, and has delayed a decision on CNOOC until Dec. 10.

His remarks on Thursday were the clearest indication yet that the government would decide on both bids at the same time as unveiling a framework to give greater clarity to what sort of foreign investment will be acceptable.

In September, sources said a trio of state-run Indian oil companies had bid $5 billion for stakes in Canadian oil sands holdings of ConocoPhillips.

In general, bids for stakes in holdings raise fewer concerns than taking control of entire Canadian companies.

During several months of deliberations on foreign investment, Harper has referred often to the need for other countries to treat Canadian investment with the same openness as they are seeking for their firms.

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