UPDATE 1-Canada minister says CNOOC deadline could be extended

Wed Dec 5, 2012 1:26pm EST

* Acknowledges possibility of extending deadline

* Says decisions will be fairly soon

* Nexen, Progress shares fall

OTTAWA, Dec 5 (Reuters) - Canadian Industry Minister Christian Paradis on Monday acknowledged the possibility of extending the Dec. 10 deadline for deciding on CNOOC Ltd's bid for Nexen Inc, but said he was not trying to send a signal on the deal.

Paradis repeatedly told reporters he would not speculate on the timing of his decision on whether to approve the Chinese company's offer, or a bid by Malaysia's Petronas for Progress Energy Resources Corp.

But when a journalist pointed out the Dec. 10 deadline for deciding on the CNOOC offer, Paradis said: "This is a deadline that could be extended, but once again, I won't speculate and ... I don't want to send a signal. When the decisions are made and are ready to be announced, this will be done. Don't interpret anything from what I'm saying here."

It has always been known the government could extend the deadline beyond Dec. 10 if CNOOC and Nexen agree, but markets have mostly assumed the deadline would stand.

Nexen and Progress shares fell immediately on his remarks.

When a reporter pointed out to him that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said hours earlier that the decisions would come down "fairly soon", Paradis responded: "If Mr Flaherty says that, so (then) it's fairly soon. But I think I'm the reviewer here so I cannot send any signal, I don't want any speculation here. The only thing I can say: it's under review and when we are ready to go out I will go out."