* Canada seen shooting for decisions by Dec. 10 if not
* One report said decision would be by Nov. 30
* No comment on report that Nexen may be asked to sell
* Alberta premier says don't be hesitant about foreign
By Randall Palmer
OTTAWA, Nov 27 The Canadian government is still
mulling its options as deadlines near on two proposed foreign
takeovers of domestic energy companies, but an official offered
no clues on when or how Ottawa would announce the hotly debated
Andrew MacDougall, spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen
Harper, did not comment on a report that the federal government
might want China's CNOOC to sell the 7 percent stake
that takeover target Nexen Inc holds in the
large Syncrude oil sands joint venture, because fellow Chinese
company Sinopec has a 9 percent stake in it.
"The government is examining its options," he said by email.
The Conservative government is trying to balance the need
for foreign investment to develop natural resources with concern
that China and other countries could snap up a big chunk of the
energy sector, and that state-owned firms might not play by
It faces a deadline of Dec. 10 for deciding on whether to
allow the $15.1 billion Nexen bid. A separate decision is
pending on a bid by Malaysia's Petronas for Progress
Energy Resources Corp, while Ottawa also promises to
clarify its overall guidelines on foreign investment.
The CNOOC bid featured in the campaign for a parliamentary
seat in the center of the oil city of Calgary. No decision came
before a Nov. 26 election there and in two other cities, as
observers had predicted.
The report of possible conditions attached to the Nexen deal
came from Business News Network anchor Howard Green, who also
said his sources were saying that Harper's chief of staff, Nigel
Wright, was likely the author of guidelines on Canada will deal
with bids from state-owned enterprises like CNOOC.
Wright had takeover experience at private equity firm Onex
Corp before joining the government.
Nexen shares were 2.5 percent lower at $24.15 in New York by
mid-afternoon, below CNOOC's offer price of $27.50.
MacDougall declined to confirm either hypothesis or to
detail the timeline for decisions on either the foreign
investment framework or on the two bids.
Though Dec. 10 is the deadline for Nexen (and even that can
be extended if all sides agree), investors are also eyeing Nov.
30 after online news service dealReporter quoted Canada's consul
general in New York, John Prato, as saying that the government
has said it would issue the foreign investment guidelines during
The Conservative party is divided on what to do about
Preston Manning, founder of one of the groups that formed
the current Conservative Party, wrote last week that Ottawa
should oppose bids by state-owned firms on principle, especially
those owned by a government whose values differ sharply from
Canada's, unless a deal can be structured so that the Canadian
perspective prevails in regard to the Canadian operations.
Other Conservatives, including former Industry Minister Jim
Prentice, have argued in favor of the deal.
In Toronto on Tuesday, Alison Redford, Progressive
Conservative premier of the oil province of Alberta, noted that
foreign investors once owned 78 percent of the energy patch, and
the result of the involvement of outsiders was that Alberta is
now Canada's economic engine.
"It's not something that we are hesitant about," she said of
"We think that if you want to play on the international
stage and you have the sorts of resources that we have in
Canada, it's important for us to be able to build those business
partnerships," she told reporters.