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China, the USA and Unocal

China on global hunt to quench its thirst for oil

Robert Collier, SF Chronicle
Move over, Big Oil. There’s a new oilman on the world stage — China.

China’s takeover bid for Unocal Corp. makes clear to sticker-shocked Americans that the 1.3 billion Chinese people are demanding an ever-larger supply of the world’s energy to fuel their booming economy and are willing to get it wherever necessary.

From Central Asia to Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and even Canada, Chinese firms are pumping oil and natural gas in many areas that the United States was counting on to meet its own record-high demand.

“We need to supply our people, and like every country we need to buy oil from around the world,” said Zhou Dadi, director general of the Energy Research Institute, the central government’s main policy agency on the subject. “This is part of globalization. It is a strategy of sustainable development. It is part of a historical process.”
(26 June 2005)
Just one of many articles China and Unocal appearing the in the press this week.

China’s bold bid for global energy

Robert Marquand, Christian Science Monitor
State-controlled firm’s bid for US oil company may roil Washington.
BEIJING – A bold offer by a state-owned company here to outbid Chevron and take over a major California oil group suggests that China’s rising economic clout has hit harder and faster than even many optimists predicted.
(24 June 2005)

Unocal Deal: A Lot More Than Money Is at Issue

Leslie Wayne and David Barboza, NY Times
The battle for Unocal, the large independent American oil company, is shaping into as much a test of Chinese-American strategic and economic relations as it is a boardroom showdown.

Most takeover battles can be settled by price – the highest bidder wins. But judging by the sharp reaction yesterday in Washington, that may not be the case with Unocal.

Just a day after the China National Offshore Oil Corporation, or CNOOC, one of China’s largest state-controlled oil companies, made an unsolicited bid of $18.5 billion for Unocal, senators and representatives, as well as lawyers, bankers and lobbyists, are taking jabs at what may become one of the thorniest strategic business challenges facing the administration.
(24 June 2005)

China oil bid to get close scrutiny

David R. Baker, SF Chronicle
Foreign investment committee works behind closed doors
(25 June 2005)

Secretive US panel could block China’s Unocal bid

Jim Wolf, Reuters
If Unocal Corp. (…) accepts an $18.5 billion bid by China’s CNOOC Ltd. (…) the fate of the deal could hinge on how a secretive U.S. review panel defines “national security,” experts said on Friday.
(24 June 2005)

The Chinese Challenge

Paul Krugman, NY Times
Fifteen years ago, when Japanese companies were busily buying up chunks of corporate America, I was one of those urging Americans not to panic. You might therefore expect me to offer similar soothing words now that the Chinese are doing the same thing. But the Chinese challenge – highlighted by the bids for Maytag and Unocal – looks a lot more serious than the Japanese challenge ever did.

There’s nothing shocking per se about the fact that Chinese buyers are now seeking control over some American companies. After all, there’s no natural law that says Americans will always be in charge. Power usually ends up in the hands of those who hold the purse strings. America, which imports far more than it exports, has been living for years on borrowed funds, and lately China has been buying many of our I.O.U.’s.

…Unocal sounds, in other words, like exactly the kind of company the Chinese government might want to control if it envisions a sort of “great game” in which major economic powers scramble for access to far-flung oil and natural gas reserves. (Buying a company is a lot cheaper, in lives and money, than invading an oil-producing country.) So the Unocal story gains extra resonance from the latest surge in oil prices.(27 June 2005)
Also posted at Unofficial Paul Krugman Web Page (click on “Columns” in the upper left).

World Oil Giants Fighting Here, Partnering There

Justin Blum, Washington Post
In one set of Chevron Corp. offices, executives are struggling to hold together a deal to buy Unocal Corp. and outmaneuver a competing offer from a Chinese-government-controlled oil company.

But in other offices, a different group of Chevron executives are on friendly terms with the Chinese company, CNOOC Ltd., negotiating a deal involving a natural gas project in Australia.

In today’s oil world, dozens of state-owned and publicly traded companies may do battle in some places and work deals with one another thousands of miles away.

“That’s the nature of the international oil business,” said J. Robinson West, chairman and founder of PFC Energy, an industry consulting firm in Washington. “At the same time, they’re partners and competitors.”
(25 June 2005)

China’s Costly Quest for Energy Control

Joseph Kahn, NY Times
BEIJING, June 24 – From the dusty plains of East Africa to the shores of the Caspian Sea, China is seeking to loosen the grip of the United States on world energy resources and secure the fuel it needs to keep its economy in overdrive.

Its energy deal-making has cost tens of billions of dollars and has dominated China’s foreign policymaking for the past two years. At times it has put China in direct competition with American policy goals, especially in Iran and Sudan, whose leaderships are among the least favored by the United States government.

Now Washington has the chance to shape China’s frenetic quest. The China National Offshore Oil Corporation, known as CNOOC, has offered $18.5 billion for the American oil company Unocal. If its bid is successful, Beijing will have a greater stake in the global oil markets, in the same way that Japanese and European oil companies work closely with major American companies around the world.

If the bid were rejected by the United States on national security grounds, as some members of Congress have publicly advocated, China could be motivated to build more ties to rogue states and step up its courtship of major oil producers in Africa and Latin America that in the past have looked mainly to the United States market.
(27 June 2005)