By Michael Johnston of ETF Database.The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Cnooc Ltd. ( CEO), a state-owned Chinese oil company, is close to a deal that would open the U.S. Gulf of Mexico to China's oil companies for the first time. The potential transaction reflects the impact that the recent recession has had on global dealmaking. Four years ago, Cnooc abandoned a bid for California-based Unocal after its overtures created a firestorm of protests from U.S. politicians. How times have changed. "As tight credit has caused a lull in spending on offshore exploration, appetite for Chinese capital has grown, and opposition to Chinese investment may be less likely," writes David Winning. Cnooc is reportedly close to a deal with Norway's StatoilHydro ASA for multiple leases in the desirable U.S. Gulf of Mexico, a region where billions of barrels of crude are believed to be trapped offshore. The entrance of a state-owned Chinese oil company into the region is a major development. While it seems that the low point of the recession has passed, the current economic environment remains one of the best buyers' markets in decades, and the few companies (and countries) with enough cash to continue making deals find themselves with some excellent opportunities. With a thriving economy and massive holdings of Treasuries, some see China as holding all the cards now.
Moreover, the deal could lead to a change in the way China orchestrates deals for Western energy companies seeking to do business within its borders, enabling the government to push for entry into oil fields in developed markets as a component of any bid for a Chinese project.