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CNOOC's Australian stake buy set for 2004
( 2003-10-28 09:42) (China Daily HK Ediition)

CNOOC, China's largest offshore oil firm that has led the country's drive for overseas energy resources, expects to buy into Australia's Gorgon gas project by mid-2004, in a deal to be worth US$275 million.

"I expect the acquisition will be completed in six to eight months," CNOOC Chief Financial Officer Mark Qiu said by telephone from Beijing.

State-controlled CNOOC inked a framework agreement on Friday to take up to 100 million tons of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the Gorgon project to China over 25 years. The sales would be worth an estimated A$30 billion (US$21 billion) in what would be the largest export deal in Australian history.

Financial details of the deal are not public, but a market source said that cash-rich CNOOC is expected to pay about US$275 million for the 12.5 per cent stake in Gorgon, which contains proven reserves of 12.9 trillion cubic feet.

CNOOC will also pay a 12.5 per cent share of the project's estimated A$11 billion (US$7.69 billion) development costs.

The deal is a massive shot in the arm for the ChevronTexaco-operated project offshore northwest Australia, but the joint-venture partners cautioned there were still many hurdles to climb before Gorgon finally gets off the ground.

The project, Australia's biggest untapped gas deposit with first LNG slated for 2008, needs to win Australian government approval to build a plant to supercool and liquefy gas on Barrow Island, a nature reserve 130 kilometres from the coast.

It also needs further gas sales contracts to underpin the A$11 billion development and partners are targeting markets in China, South Korea, Japan and the west coast of North America.

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