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US gov't urged to stay out of CNOOC bid
www.chinaview.cn 2005-06-30 08:14:36

    BEIJING, June 30 -- Stay out of it.

    That's what corporate America is doing, and that's what some outspoken executives are advising the US Government to do about Chinese oil firm CNOOC's US$18.5 billion bid for California-based Unocal Corp.

    Executives say the government should let the market decide whether CNOOC Ltd's offer or a rival bid from Chevron Corp comes out on top for the ninth-largest US oil and gas producer.

    A US government panel will likely consider whether national security would be threatened if China gains control of Unocal's oil and gas reserves as well as proprietary drilling technology and mining assets.

    General Electric Co, often considered a bellwether for corporate America due to its range of businesses from industry to finance to media, said China stepping out into the world is a natural evolution of the country's growing economic power.

    However, GE executives carefully avoided a question at an analyst meeting on Tuesday about whether deals like CNOOC's posed a threat to its business.

    A few companies' executives stepped out from the shadows following the CNOOC bid, saying that blocking the deal would send the wrong message after US officials and multinational corporations have encouraged China in recent years to adopt more open policies regarding foreign investment.

    "I would be very concerned because I think it's an indication of a government stepping into the free market system, where they generally don't make good long-term decisions," Illinois Tool Works Inc President David Speer said.

    Illinois Tool Works, a manufacturer of products ranging from construction tools to industrial plastics, was not alone.

    Even an oil industry rival urged the US Government not to get involved. Exxon Mobil Corp Chief Executive Lee Raymond said last week it would be a "big mistake" if the US Congress interfered with the transaction, because it would come back to haunt American companies looking to do business abroad.

    "If you start to put inefficiencies in the system (through government involvement), then all of us pay for that," Raymond said.

    Officials in China said a review of the CNOOC deal should not be made political.

    US concerns about a growing trade surplus with China continue to gain momentum as Chinese companies dip into burgeoning cash reserves to scoop up iconic US brands.

    This year, top Chinese computer maker Lenovo Group bought IBM's PC business and China's largest home appliances maker, Haier Group, teamed up with two private equity companies to bid for Maytag Corp earlier this month.

    If the United States wants to encourage free global trade, analysts said, it would be hard for the government to block CNOOC's bid, which was richer than a US$16 billion cash and stock offer that Unocal accepted from US rival Chevron Corp.

    "For the US... to suddenly jump in and say we don't like this deal for some reason would get a lot of push back in the global community," said Eric Spiegel, who runs the global energy practice for Booz Allen Hamilton.

(Source: China Daily)

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