OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Canadian government will announce new guidelines designed to clarify its rules for approving foreign investments “fairly soon”, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said on Wednesday.
“I can’t speak to the timing. I can say that it’s been given priority ... we’re aware of the need for clarification, yes, which the prime minister has made clear, and so it’ll be addressed before long,” Flaherty told reporters in Ottawa.
The Conservative government says it will issue the guidelines at about the same time as its verdicts on two big foreign takeover bids.
China’s CNOOC Ltd (0883.HK) has bid $15.1 billion for Canadian oil producer Nexen Inc NXY.TO and the deadline for the government to make a decision on the deal is Dec 10, although that can be pushed back if both parties agree. Ottawa is also studying a $5.2 billion bid by Malaysia’s Petronas PETR.UL for Progress Energy Resources (PRQ.TO).
Some Conservative legislators are concerned about the prospect of foreign state-owned enterprises buying up energy assets, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper says the government’s new guidelines will address that matter.
The share prices of both Nexen and Progress have fluctuated over the last few weeks as markets try to work out what the government will decide to do. On October 22, Harper said the guidelines would come out “fairly shortly” and on Nov 8 he said they would be issued “in the very near future”.
Asked why the government was taking so long to issue the guidelines, Flaherty replied: “It is a very important issue and it’s absolutely imperative that the government get it right. So one must be cautious and prudent and analytical when approaching a very serious issue like that.”
Pressed as to when the guidelines would be released, he said: “It’ll be fairly soon.” He declined to elaborate.
Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Peter Galloway