Clement likes PetroChina deal

OTTAWA — Ottawa has given its blessing to a Chinese firm’s nearly $2-billion investment in oilsands properties owned by Athabasca Oil Sands Corp.

OTTAWA — Ottawa has given its blessing to a Chinese firm’s nearly $2-billion investment in oilsands properties owned by Athabasca Oil Sands Corp.

“I have approved the application by PetroChina under the Investment Canada Act to acquire control of the MacKay and Dover Oil Sands projects because I am satisfied that the investment is likely to be of net benefit to Canada,” federal Industry Minister Tony Clement said in a statement Tuesday.

“In making my determination, I carefully considered the plans, undertakings and other information submitted by PetroChina in light of the net benefit factors listed in section 20 of the Act.”

PetroChina and privately held Athabasca announced in August that the Chinese entity would buy a 60 per cent stake in the two properties for $1.9 billion

Canadian legislation requires a federal review any time a Canadian company with assets of more than $312 million is purchased by a foreign entity.

PetroChina and its parent company have made a number of significant commitments should they be allowed to acquire control of the MacKay and Dover oil sands projects, Clement said.

Among other things, the Chinese concerns have agreed to capital expenditures in excess of $250 million for developing the properties over the next three years.

They have also pledged to increase employment levels in Canada as they develop the projects over the next three years and to maintain an Alberta head office for operating companies associated with the projects for the next five years.

“To successfully compete in a globalized economy, we need to attract international investment, which can create jobs, raise our level of competition, and develop Canada’s long-term economic prospects,” Clement said.

“Our future prosperity relies on open markets and two-way trade and investment flows that will benefit Canada and Canadians. After a thorough review of the individual merits of this transaction, I have concluded that it will benefit Canada.”

PetroChina is not the first Chinese firm to show interest in northern Alberta’s vast oil reserves, which are second only to Saudi Arabia’s in size.

Sinopec Corp. has a 50 per cent stake in the Northern Lights project, 100 kilometres northeast of Fort McMurray Alta., with French energy giant Total S.A. holding the rest.

China National Petroleum Company bid on and obtained 11 oilsands leases in 2007, and in 2005 the Chinese Offshore Oil Corporation invested $150 million in Calgary-based Meg Energy.

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