Canada clears path for Japan traders with ban on state energy giants
* Japan's trading houses have $63 bln in cash
* Trading houses big energy investors after Fukushima
* Canada draws line in sand on state-controlled investors
By Aaron Sheldrick and Osamu Tsukimori
TOKYO, Dec 13 (Reuters) - Acquisitive Japanese trading houses will find the course clear of some of their toughest competitors in the race for Canadian energy assets after Ottawa said it would bar state-owned companies from taking majority stakes in oil sands assets.
Japan's "Shosha", giant trading companies with stakes in supply lines for everything from noodles to natural gas, have snapped up global energy assets in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The strong yen and soft government financing have helped bankroll the shopping spree.
But the privately-held firms have struggled to outbid state giants such as those from China, with governments more directly behind them.
"I think that, particularly for the private sector companies in Japan, the doors to the Canadian energy resources sector are now wide open," said Victor Shum, managing director, downstream energy consulting, at IHS in Singapore. "The Canadian government welcomes foreign private sector companies."
Despite big spending already this year, the finances of Mitsubishi Corp, Mitsui & Co and other trading houses have barely been sapped. The seven biggest Shosha had about 5.2 trillion yen ($63 billion) of cash or cash equivalents at the end of September this year. Continued...