* Canada aiming for Dec. 10 decisions, if not before
* One report said decision could be in November
* No comment on possible Nexen sale of Syncrude stake
* Alberta premier not hesitant about foreign investment
* China's ambassador to Canada welcomes debate
By Randall Palmer and David Ljunggren
OTTAWA, Nov 27 With deadlines fast approaching,
Canada is still weighing two proposed foreign takeovers of
domestic energy companies, but a top minister offered no clues
on Tuesday as to when or how the government would announce the
hotly debated decisions.
The government says it will unveil new policy guidelines on
foreign investment at about the same time it announces verdicts
on the proposed takeovers: A bid by China's CNOOC Ltd
for Nexen Inc and a bid by Malaysia's Petronas
for Progress Energy Resources Corp.
Although the deadline for delivering a decision on the
CNOOC-Nexen deal is Dec. 10, Industry Minister Christian Paradis
said officials had not finished their work yet. Paradis is in
nominal charge of the file, although few political analysts
doubt that Prime Minister Stephen Harper will make the ultimate
"There are (takeover) reviews ongoing that I cannot comment
on, but we are working on the policy framework to make sure
that, in the future, foreign investment continues to provide net
benefit for Canada," Paradis told reporters.
"We'll go out with the reviews, with the guidelines when we
are ready to do so. We will clarify what we need to clarify."
The Conservative government is trying to balance the need
for foreign investment to develop natural resources with concern
that China and other countries could snap up a big chunk of the
energy sector and that state-owned companies might not play by
Andrew MacDougall, Harper's chief spokesman, declined to
comment on a Business News Network report that Ottawa might want
CNOOC to sell Nexen's 7 percent stake in the large Syncrude oil
sands joint venture because China's Sinopec has a 9
percent stake in it.
Nexen shares closed 2.3 percent lower at $24.20 in New York,
well below CNOOC's offer price of $27.50.
The CNOOC bid featured in the campaign for a parliamentary
seat in the center of the oil city of Calgary. No decision came
before a Nov. 26 election there and in two other cities.
Although Dec. 10 is the deadline for Nexen, investors are
also eyeing Nov. 30 after online news service dealReporter
quoted Canada's consul general in New York, John Prato, as
saying Ottawa would issue the foreign investment guidelines
The Conservative party is divided on what to do about
Chinese investment. It has also become contentious across the
country as some Canadians worry about losing control over
Alberta's vast oil sands resources, the world's third-largest
crude oil source.
In Toronto on Tuesday, Alison Redford, Progressive
Conservative premier of Alberta, said that foreign investors
once owned 78 percent of the energy patch and the result was
that Alberta is now Canada's economic engine.
"It's not something that we are hesitant about," she said of
"We think that if you want to play on the international
stage and you have the sorts of resources that we have in
Canada, it's important for us to be able to build those business
partnerships," she told reporters.
Debate over the prospect of increasing Chinese investment in
Canada is understandable as the economic relationship between
the countries matures, Zhang Junsai, China's ambassador to
Canada, said in a speech in Montreal.
"What I want to say today is that this debate comes at the
right time and it enables us to learn more about answers and
strengths of our trade and economic cooperation," Zhang said.
"And it also helps to enhance mutual understanding and the
He said China's participation in Canada has brought job
opportunities and increased the value of the businesses the
Chinese have invested in.