China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC), the country's largest oil and gas producer, will speed up overseas acquisitions in regions such as Africa and South America this year, in a bid to boost China's quest for energy security.
Currently, the company is in talks with foreign partners for several deals, said a company executive yesterday, who asked not to be named.
"The relatively low prices of overseas assets this year have offered us unprecedented opportunities," he said, without elaborating.
Dow Jones reported yesterday that CNPC and China's third largest oil company CNOOC Ltd have proposed paying at least $17 billion for all of Spanish oil and gas producer Repsol YPF SA's stake in its Argentine unit YPF SA.
The Chinese side discussed their offer with Repsol executives in a two-and-a-half-hour evening meeting on July 30 in Europe, Dow Jones reported. The deal could be the biggest overseas investment by China.
Both the CNPC and CNOOC spokespersons yesterday declined to comment on the deal.
Repsol has several times postponed a public offering of a 20-percent stake in YPF due to adverse market conditions -- an indication that the Spanish oil firm doesn't plan to divest the YPF stake on the cheap.
Zhang Guobao, vice-chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, the country's top economic planning body, said last month that CNPC was holding talks with Repsol.
CNPC President Jiang Jiemin said earlier that the company would boost cooperation with oil companies in resources-rich countries such as Kazakhstan, Venezuela and Qatar this year.
Overseas mergers and acquisitions will be a "key strategic development target for the company", said Jiang.
The financial crisis has presented CNPC with a rare strategic opportunity to take advantage of low commodity prices to expand reserves, company Vice-president Zhou Jiping said earlier.
Analysts said that domestic oil companies' quickened pace in overseas development was in line with China's increasing oil imports. According to a recent report by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), 64.5 percent of the country's oil consumption was likely to be met by imports in 2020.
The gap between domestic consumption and production is the main cause for the increase in imports. CASS statistics showed that China's oil production would see gradual decline after 2020.
Analysts said China should further diversify its oil importing sources to ensure sustainable supplies. At present the Middle East, Africa and Asia-Pacific are the three main regions for Chinese oil imports.
In another development, a joint $3.3-billion acquisition of a Kazakh private upstream company by CNPC and its Kazakh partner has been delayed.
The acquisition of MangistauMunaiGas, part of a $10-billion loan-for-oil deal agreed this year, was due to be completed in July. But Kazakh state oil company, KazMunaiGas, said it had yet to be finalized, Reuters reported.