* Canadian government mulls CNOOC takeover of Nexen
* Opinion on bid among governing Conservatives is split
Sept 27 Two former top aides to Canadian Prime
Minister Stephen Harper said on Thursday he should approve a
$15.1 billion bid by China's CNOOC Ltd to take over
Canadian oil producer Nexen Inc, saying the benefits
outweigh the risks.
Canada's governing Conservatives are split over the bid,
with some party members concerned about letting a Chinese
state-owned enterprise buy Canadian energy assets. Fans of the
deal say China can help provide the huge foreign investment
Canada needs to develop the oil-rich tar sands of Alberta, one
of the world's biggest crude deposits.
Former Conservative industry minister Jim Prentice, now a
vice president at Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, said he
thought the government would allow the bid to go ahead.
"We need foreign capital to develop our resources,
especially the oil sands," he told BNN Television, noting that
Harper has made increasing trade with China a top priority.
"It would be a very bad time to turn around in the middle of
the road on that ... I think when you look at this transaction
and examine it, it makes sense for Canada, and that's why I
think the government will see the wisdom of that."
Current Industry Minister Christian Paradis is studying the
CNOOC bid to see if it is of net benefit to Canada. The initial
45-day deadline for a government decision expires on Oct 12, but
the government is likely to extend it for another 30 days.
The Conservative government shocked markets in 2010 by
rejecting Australian miner BHP Billiton Ltd's takeover bid for
Canadian fertilizer producer Potash Corp, making markets wary of
what stance the government will take on Nexen.
Tom Flanagan, Harper's former chief of staff, also urged the
government on Thursday to approve the CNOOC bid, a move he said
that would show Canada is still open for business.
"The critics have genuine concerns, which deserve to be
discussed, but I think it would damage Canada's interests for
the minister of industry to reject this acquisition," he wrote
in the Globe and Mail newspaper.
He also noted there had been no public opposition to the
deal from the influential Canadian oil and gas industry.