UPDATE 3-Canada says deadline on CNOOC bid ruling could be delayed

Wed Dec 5, 2012 2:52pm EST
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* Canada says deadline for CNOOC bid can be extended

* Shares in target Nexen drop on news

* Takeovers not raised at Conservative caucus meeting

By David Ljunggren and Randall Palmer

OTTAWA, Dec 5 (Reuters) - Canadian Industry Minister Christian Paradis surprised markets on Wednesday by saying the Dec. 10 deadline for ruling on a bid by China's CNOOC Ltd for energy company Nexen Inc could be extended, comments that nudged Nexen's shares lower.

Paradis said he did not want his comments to be construed in any particular way.

"This is a deadline that could be extended, but once again, I won't speculate and ... I don't want to send a signal," he told reporters. "When the decisions are made and are ready to be announced, this will be done. Don't interpret anything from what I'm saying here."

The Canadian government is due to announce new foreign investment guidelines at about the same time it delivers its verdict on the CNOOC move and on a separate bid by Malaysia's Petronas for Progress Energy Resources Corp.

Ottawa can extend the deadline beyond Dec. 10 if CNOOC and Nexen agree, but markets mostly assumed the twice-extended deadline would stand.   Continued...