Talisman CEO lauds Canada's 'yield sign' on foreign takeovers

Mon Dec 10, 2012 6:41pm EST

* Canada should have domestic firms with global ops -Kvisle

* Talisman not seeking buyers

* Sees shift to more joint ventures with foreign companies

By Jeffrey Jones

CALGARY, Alberta, Dec 10 (Reuters) - The chief executive of Talisman Energy, which had been seen as a possible takeover target for an Asian state enterprise, on Monday praised Canada's new restrictions on purchases by foreign state-owned entities.

With Canada's approval of the $15.1 billion takeover of Nexen Inc by China's CNOOC Ltd, it is important that the country keep some homegrown oil companies with global reach, such as Talisman, CEO Hal Kvisle told reporters after speaking to a business audience.

Calgary-based Talisman had drawn speculation as the next possible target of an Asian state enterprise due to a structure similar to that of Nexen and a weakened share price.

The new foreign investment guidelines issued on Friday appear to make such a transaction much more difficult. Under the new rules, future bids for control of oil sands businesses by state-owned enterprises would be allowed only in exceptional circumstances. It is widely expected that other big takeovers by foreign state-owned enterprises would also be much harder now.

"Like Nexen, Talisman's biggest asset in Canada is the organization and the people in the corporate headquarters," Kvisle said. "I think it's very much in Canada's interest to have some strong international players that continue to be headquartered and financed and managed where the innovative thinking comes out of Calgary."

Kvisle, former CEO of TransCanada Corp, was appointed Talisman's boss in September as the company struggled with weak natural gas prices and some investor discomfort with its portfolio of assets spread across many countries.

In October, Kvisle announced a new era of conservatism at the company, with plans to cut spending by 25 percent and exit unprofitable regions. Its main operating areas now are in Canada, the United States, North Sea and Southeast Asia.

"That's the company we're trying to create as we turn Talisman around -- an international company but headquartered in Calgary, and not a company that's trolling around looking for someone to buy it," Kvisle said.

Talisman shares closed down 9 Canadian cents at C$10.93 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Monday, the first day of trading after Ottawa announced its blessings on the takeovers of Nexen as well as the acquisition of Progress Energy Resources Corp by Malaysia's Petronas.

Some investors had expected a steeper drop in stocks that had been seen as potential takeover targets.

However, Kvisle said he believes investors had largely factored in odds that Nexen and Progress could be the last major takeovers by foreign state-owned enterprises for awhile as Ottawa deliberated over the issue in the months leading up to the decisions.

"Most observers, most industry people, have concluded that it's a good idea to have the Nexen deal go through because it was submitted in good faith in accordance with all of the rules, and the Chinese have bent over backwards to accommodate the concerns of the government of Canada," he said.

"But it's time to take a breath, step back and put up a yield sign for awhile. Not a stop sign, but a yield sign."

Kvisle said he does not believe that new restrictions will mean a drop in capital available for Canadian energy, but a shift in focus to more joint ventures.

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