Canada minister says voters split over CNOOC-Nexen deal

Tue Sep 18, 2012 5:02pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's junior finance minister, Ted Menzies, said on Tuesday his constituents in Alberta are split over Chinese state-owned CNOOC Ltd's $15.1 billion takeover bid for Canadian oil producer Nexen Inc, with some backing and others opposing the deal.

The Conservative government, of which Menzies is a member, is deciding whether to approve the CNOOC bid on the basis of whether it is of net benefit to the country. Menzies is a legislator from the oil-rich province of Alberta where Nexen's Canadian assets are concentrated.

The bid has divided cabinet, pitting ministers keen for more investment in the tar sands of northern Alberta, one of the world's biggest crude oil deposits, against those nervous about a Chinese state-owned enterprise buying Canadian assets.

"I've heard many concerns, varying concerns, concerns about the resource industry, concerns about a foreign company investing in Canada," Menzies told reporters when asked what his constituents were telling him.

"We're hearing comments on both sides of the story, many supportive and certainly some that are concerned. What I'm hearing is more concern rather than actually not understanding the issues."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said last month public opinion would be taken into account when deciding the fate of the bid.

Alberta is the heartland of the Conservative Party, and has 25 of the province's 28 seats in the federal House of Commons.

The opposition New Democratic Party later seized on Menzies' remarks to suggest the government was even ignoring Conservatives.   Continued...

Canada's Minister of State of Finance Ted Menzies speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa June 12, 2012. REUTERS/Chris Wattie