Canada sees no link between Viterra, Nexen Chinese approvals

WINNIPEG, Manitoba Tue Nov 13, 2012 3:13pm EST

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WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - The Chinese government is treating its role in potential takeovers of two Canadian companies separately, and is not linking them in order to pressure Ottawa to approve a deal between China's CNOOC Ltd and Canadian oil producer Nexen Inc, Canada's agriculture minister said on Tuesday.

Approval from China's Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) under Chinese anti-monopoly law is the final regulatory hurdle for Glencore International PLC's (GLEN.L) C$6.1 billion ($6.1 billion) takeover of Canadian grain handler Viterra Inc VT.TO. Viterra said on Friday that the deal's closing date deadline would extend until December 10.

The only significant asset Viterra owns in China is a canola-crushing plant joint venture.

China is also waiting to hear if Canada will approve state-owned CNOOC's (0883.HK) $15.1-billion takeover of Nexen NXY.TO and December 10 is also Canada's deadline to rule on that transaction.

"They're treating these very differently, which of course they are," Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said in Winnipeg. "One is an investment into their country, predicated on what Glencore will do into the future. The other is an investment into Canada."

Concerns about delays in Chinese approval of the deal drove Viterra shares to a seven-month low in late October, although the stock has since regained some ground. On Tuesday, the shares were at C$15.74, 3 percent below Glencore's offer.

Some investors have speculated that China is holding off on its Viterra decision until it finds out if the Canadian government will approve the Nexen deal.

The extended review has also delayed side deals Glencore has made to transfer some Viterra assets to Agrium Inc (AGU.TO) (AGU.N), Richardson International Limited and CF Industries Holdings Inc (CF.N).

($1=$1.00 Canadian)

(The story adds missing first name for agriculture minister)

(Editing by Janet Guttsman and Marguerita Choy)

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