Pair settles Nexen insider trading charges with SEC

WASHINGTON Fri Mar 29, 2013 4:10pm EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Chinese businessman and his wife agreed to settle insider trading charges for $3.3 million in a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission probe into the $15.1 billion takeover of Canada's Nexen Inc.

The securities regulator said that the couple stocked up on Nexen shares knowing that the energy company was about to be acquired by state-owned energy company CNOOC Ltd in July, China's biggest-ever takeover.

Nexen stock jumped almost 52 percent on the announcement CNOOC had agreed to acquire the company, but the SEC soon got an emergency court order to freeze several trading accounts after it saw suspicious activity in the shares.

In October, Hong Kong-based Well Advantage Limited settled charges of $14 million with the SEC, paying back illegal profits made on the trades plus a penalty worth the same amount.

That was followed by the departure of Zhang Zhirong from the helm of China Rongsheng Heavy Industries Group, who owned Well Advantage. Rongsheng has a strategic cooperation agreement with CNOOC.

The SEC's probe had now identified Ren Feng and his wife Zeng Huiyu as previously unknown traders charged in the complaint, the watchdog said.

The agreement is subject to court approval. The defendants neither admit nor deny the SEC's allegations.

(Reporting by Douwe Miedema and Kim Dixon; editing by G Crosse)

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