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Kazakhstan warns of "collision" over PetroKaz sale
Updated: 2005-10-13 11:21

Oil-rich Kazakhstan moved nearer blocking Chinese CNPC's $4.18 billion takeover of PetroKazakhstan on Wednesday and warned shareholders in the Canadian-listed firm against approving the deal.

"If our law has been adopted there's going to be a legal collision and we will be able to say 'sorry guys you have concluded your deal without our consent'," Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Vladimir Shkolnik told deputies.

He was addressing parliament's lower house shortly after the upper chamber, the Senate, passed a complex bill that aims to give Kazakhstan the right to intervene in the sale of foreign-held stakes in oil firms. It also seeks to limit property rights over "strategic resources" like oil and gas.

The bill, which only needs President Nursultan Nazarbayev's signature to come into law, could derail CNPC's bid for PetroKazakhstan, a Canadian-listed firm with almost its entire operations in the former Soviet state of Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan is furious that PetroKazhakstan and advisers Goldman Sachs failed to consult it about the deal.

"They started work on this deal in London and New York without asking for the consent of Kazakhstan's government," Shkolnik said. "Here's the result of our ministry's work, this bill, which you have debated."

"By any ethical standards they (PetroKazakhstan) should have addressed the government of Kazakhstan and said 'we want to do this -- what's your attitude?'"

Shkolnik said he had expressed his dismay to the Canadian ambassador.

PetroKazakhstan shareholders are due to decide on CNPC's takeover bid on October 18. A spokesman for CNPC said he had no comment.


Kazakhstan, the world's ninth largest country, has doubled oil production to 1.2 million barrels per day since the Soviet Union collapsed, putting it in the world's top 20 oil producers.

Following a trend in neighbouring Russia, it has sought to bring its oil and gas resources under greater state control and set tougher terms for foreign oil companies.

Deputy Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Bakhtykozha Izmukhambetov told senators before the vote the draft law was not meant to scare away investors.

"These new restrictions do not mean a worsening of the republic's investment climate," he said, repeating earlier official pledges that foreign-held oil stakes would be bought out at the market price.

The CNPC bid was unveiled on August 23 and the government at first said little. Last week it revealed it wanted "strategic control" over at least some PetroKaz assets. Shkolnik said on Wednesday Kazakhstan wanted to take back control of the Shymkent oil refinery, known as ShNOS, from PetroKazakhstan.

"I believe that in any case Kazakhstan should have a part of any strategically important project and influence all the decisions taken with regard to these oilfields, and also to ShNOS," he said. "I'll struggle for that as long as I can."

PetroKazakhstan has maintained that the sale of its shares on overseas stock exchanges should not be subject to Kazakh government review.

Shkolnik said the company had acted wrongly and also criticised adviser Goldman Sachs.

"They hired Goldman Sachs, a well-known company, which started this process and invited two companies to bid -- a Chinese and an Indian one," he said.

"But it did not invite others and it did not inform us about it. We learnt about it through third parties."

Senior CNPC officials have said previously that strong Sino-Kazakh ties are likely to ensure that the Chinese state oil firm wins in its bid for PetroKazakhstan. China is helping to build a pipeline linking existing lines that serve PetroKazakhstan's Kumkol fields to the Kazakh-Chinese border.

Further darkening the outlook for the PetroKazakhstan sale is opposition by Russian oil major LUKOIL which is planning to fight CNPC's takeover bid in court as part of its attempts to gain full ownership of a joint venture with PetroKaz, Turgai Petroleum.

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