Canadian minister silent on talks over Petronas bid

Tue Oct 30, 2012 5:10pm EDT
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* Petronas in talks to rescue its bid for Progress

* Canada set to announce guidelines for investment

OTTAWA Oct 30 (Reuters) - Canadian Industry Minister Christian Paradis on Tuesday declined to comment about talks with officials of Petronas, the Malaysian state oil company aiming to revive its C$5.2 billion ($5.2 billion) bid to buy Progress Energy Resources Corp.

Paradis stunned markets on Oct 19 by rejecting the deal on the grounds it would not bring a net benefit to Canada. He gave Petronas an extra 30 days to modify its bid, and the company met industry ministry officials last week.

"When there is a review under consideration I cannot comment on specifics. I can acknowledge what Petronas has said - that they met with officials from my department," he told reporters in Ottawa after a speech.

Sources told Reuters that Ottawa wanted to approve the deal but was afraid doing so would tie its hands when reviewing a much more controversial $15.1 billion bid by China's CNOOC Ltd for Nexen Inc.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he would unveil a new set of guidelines on foreign investment at about the same time the government announces its decision on both the CNOOC and Petronas bids.

"I don't want to create any speculation around any cases. I don't want to be drawn in( to) details, and this is why I'm careful here. When it gets time to announce new policies or a new framework we will do it properly," said Paradis.

The next deadline on the CNOOC deal is Nov 9 and unconfirmed media reports say Ottawa wants to extend the review periods for both bids until Dec. 7.