China’s Sinopec has “golden opportunity” to expand oil assets in Angola

6 September 2010

Johannesburg, South Africa, 6 Sept – Chinese state oil company Sinopec currently has a “golden opportunity” finally to expand its assets in Angola, getting closer to the positions held in the country by the large multinationals, said analyst Ana Cristina Alves.

After a long stalemate, the analyst said in the most recent edition of the China Monitor of the Centre for Chinese Studies at Stellenbosch University, this opportunity has emerged via the new tender for oil blocks, which is due to take place at the beginning of next year.

The Chinese company has pre-qualification for the long-awaited tender as an operator and Sonangol Sinopec International as a non-operator.

However, the list of potential operators also includes Addax Petroleum, which Sinopec acquired in June 2009 for US$7 billion, which “increases the possibilities of Sinopec obtaining assets as an operator in Angola,” the analyst wrote.

As well as this the international economic climate, Alves said, also favours Beijing’s Angolan interests.

“This new reality has opened up a way for Chinese economic policy to return to the field to try to overcome Sinopec’s current stalemate in Angola,” said the analyst from the South African university.

China has been increasing its purchase of oil from Angola, which in the first half of this year was Beijing’s main supplier, but the assets owned by Chinese oil companies in the country are still modest.

After giving up on the “Sonaref project,” which brought together oil companies from both countries to build a gigantic refinery, Sinopec started adopting “more market-focused strategies” in expanding its assets in the country.

According to Laves, the most recent credit lines from Beijing, which increase support for Angola’s reconstruction by US$10 billion, can be interpreted as a “means of increasing Angola’s goodwill in opening up a new round of oil licenses.”

Now, she said, the issue of Luanda being capable of keeping the new loans separate from participation in the oil sector is raised, and whether China will be able to reach its objective of having significant assets in the most-disputed deep sea oil blocks.

“This new wave of credit lines from China will probably secure some ground in this tender, however this will probably involve onshore or more marginal deep sea blocks,” she said.

According to the analyst, Sinopec’s expansion will continue to depend largely on financial and diplomatic support from Beijing.

In May 2006, Sonangol Sinopec International was granted three stakes in some of the most disputed deep water blocks: 20 percent of block 15/06, 27.5 percent of 17/06 and 40 percent of 18/06.

In 2004, it was granted half of block 18, an equal stake to the operator, British Petroleum.

The Angolan oil industry has attracted over the years large multinational companies from the sector, thanks to low operating costs and a high exploration success rate. (macauhub)