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BP to sell 2 percent stake in PetroChina
( 2004-01-13 01:07) (Agencies)

British Petroleum PLC said Monday it plans to sell its 2 percent stake in Chinese oil and gas producer PetroChina in public markets.

Analysts said BP's sale makes strategic sense as the company bought into PetroChina largely to gain contacts in the world's fastest-growing energy market, a task it has accomplished.

``Our equity investment in PetroChina has been very successful and we believe now is an appropriate time to divest the shares,'' said Gary Dirks, president of BP China.

``BP remains committed to our business with PetroChina, and in China as a whole, where we expect to invest a further US$3 billion over the next five years.''

The announcement sent BP shares up 2 percent to 443 pence by 1138 GMT.

BP paid US$578 million for its PetroChina stake when the Chinese company launched its initial public offering of 10 percent of its shares in April 2000.

Since listing, PetroChina's share price has more than tripled, with the bulk of the gains in the past year, on strong oil prices and a wave of interest in Chinese equities.

China is the world's sixth-biggest producer of oil, with daily output of around 3.3 million barrels. Three companies - PetroChina, CNOOC Ltd. and China Petroleum & Chemical Corp., or Sinopec - dominate domestic oil and gas production.

The world's most populous nation is now the second-biggest petroleum consumer, surpassing Japan last year.

Analysts said the decision by BP - the world's second-biggest publicly traded oil producer - to sell its Petrochina stake - should not be seen as a sign it is moving out of China.

``BP is active in less countries (than its rivals), and where it is active it very much pursues the strategy of being one of the main players,'' said Robert Plummer, an analyst with energy consultants Wood Mackenzie, in Edinburgh.

Key projects include a joint venture with CNOOC and others in a US$600 million liquefied natural gas import facility in Guangdong province, retail joint ventures with Sinopec and PetroChina and a number of petrochemical projects.

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