Another Chinese Asset Grab

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It seems that nary a week goes by without an announcement from CNOOC (NYSE: CEO  ) , China's biggest offshore oil and gas operator, describing an acquisition in yet another part of the globe.

This week's target is Argentina, where the company will spend $3.1 billion for a half interest in that country's Bridas Corp. The deal, CNOOC's largest thus far, will take the form of an oil-and-gas joint venture. It further demonstrates China's thirst for natural resources to build its thriving economy, which has some concerned that the country is scooping up a disproportionate amount of the world's resources. Indeed, last year alone, Chinese companies spent $32 billion on commodity-related deals spread over multiple continents.

In its most recent combination, CNOOC and Bridas Energy Holdings will share equal amounts of Bridas Corp., the country's second largest oil exporter. Bridas also has exploration and production assets in neighboring countries Bolivia and Chile. As a kicker, Bridas has a 40% interest in Pan American Energy LLC, Argentina's biggest oil exporter. The remainder of Pan American is owned by supermajor BP (NYSE: BP  ) , which is currently contesting with Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE: RDS-A  ) for status as Europe's largest oil company. Bridas is controlled by the family of Argentine billionaire Carlos Bulgheroni.

The Argentine venture is only CNOOC's latest effort to spread its wings virtually worldwide:

  • As last year closed, the company signed a pact in Venezuela to develop that country's heavy crude Orinoco belt.
  • A matter of months ago, it vied with ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM  ) to acquire a portion of Ghana's Jubilee field.
  • This month it signed an initial deal with the Iraqi government -- along with China's Sinochem International -- to develop the Missan oil field in the southern part of that country.
  • Earlier in March, CNOOC announced it was teaming up with France's Total (NYSE: TOT  ) in an effort to purchase a portion of Tullow Oil PLC's Ugandan oil assets.

The Argentine venture will add about 12% -- 318 million barrels -- to CNOOC's reserves, and boost its production by about 46,000 barrels per day. That's well and good, but my key takeaway is that CNOOC is sufficiently active, and has access to sufficiently deep pockets, to merit continuous attention from Foolish energy investors.

CNOOC is a Motley Fool Global Gains pick. Total SA is a Motley Fool Income Investor selection. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned. He does, however, welcome your comments, questions, or kibitzing. CNOOC seems uninterested in acquiring the Fool's disclosure policy.

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