CNOOC-Nexen deal wins U.S. approval, its last hurdle

Tue Feb 12, 2013 5:30pm EST
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By Roberta Rampton and Scott Haggett

WASHINGTON/CALGARY (Reuters) - U.S. regulators have approved the $15.1 billion takeover of Canadian oil and gas company Nexen Inc by China's state-owned CNOOC Ltd, removing the final obstacle to the Asian country's largest-ever foreign takeover.

The deal to buy Calgary, Alberta-based Nexen had already passed regulatory muster in Canada and Europe. But approval from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) was also needed because Nexen has U.S. interests.

Nexen said on Tuesday that CFIUS had given the green light and that it expects the deal to close the week of February 25, seven months after China's top offshore oil and gas producer made its bid of $27.50 a share.

The Nexen statement did not indicate whether CFIUS had imposed conditions on the approval, and company officials were not available for comment.

Nexen's shares climbed 2 percent to just below the offer price on Tuesday, closing at $27.43, their highest level since CNOOC made its bid for Nexen on July 23 last year.

The U.S. approval came even though widespread distrust of U.S. investments by Chinese companies has lingered since CNOOC's 2005 attempt to buy Unocal Corp for $18.5 billion, a deal that foundered on U.S. national security concerns.

Late last month, CFIUS cleared a bid by the U.S. unit of China's Wanxiang Group to buy bankrupt A123 Systems Inc, a maker of electric car batteries, although some lawmakers warned the deal would lead to the transfer of sensitive technology developed with U.S. government funding.

CNOOC's success in navigating the CFIUS approval process "is likely to be viewed as a positive development," said Joshua Zive, senior counsel at Bracewell & Guiliani, a Washington law and lobbying firm. "That, in the current climate, is a moment of significance."   Continued...

The Nexen building is seen in downtown Calgary, Alberta, July 23, 2012. REUTERS/Todd Korol