CNOOC (NYSE: CEO), the leading Chinese offshore oil and gas producer, has announced its intention to raise capital by issuing 10-year and 30-year international bonds.

The company remains mum about the amount of its intended offering. However, it's likely that a portion of the general corporate purposes to which it will apply the funds will include the acquisition by its Bridas joint venture of the 60% of South America's Pan American Energy that's still owned by BP (NYSE: BP).

CNOOC formed the Bridas venture last year by paying $3.1 billion for half of Argentina's Bridas Corporation -- which operates in Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile -- along with 40% of Pan American. In November, the venture announced that it would pay $7.06 billion for the majority share in Pan American that it didn't already own. Also, speculation has emerged that CNOOC will apply some of the funds to a Canadian oil-sands project this year.

Trading in CNOOC's shares, which are Hong Kong-listed, was halted Thursday, once sensitive financial information in connection with the bond issue was released. The company said its income for the period encompassing January through September had jumped 90% to 38.9 billion yuan ($5.89 billion), versus 20.5 billion yuan last year. Absent the intended offering, the company would have limited its financial reporting to six-month intervals.

While there still isn't clarity about when the shares will resume trading, it appears that the road show preceding the offering began in Hong Kong on Friday, before moving to London and Boston, and wrapping up in New York later this week. Despite the lack of information on the total value of the planned issue, it clearly won't begin to approach the whopping $70 billion that Brazil's Petrobras (NYSE: PBR) took down in a share offering last year.

CNOOC is following a push by its government for the major Chinese oil companies to spread their activities to a wider range of international locations. For instance, in November, the company officially lost out on a bid it was making jointly with Ghana National Petroleum -- and in competition with ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM) -- for a 23.5% stake in Ghana's high-potential offshore Jubilee field. The stake remains owned by privately held, Dallas-based Kosmos Energy.

Also, it was announced last week that CNOOC is currently in talks with Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE: RDS-A) to grant the European oil giant a 30% interest in a $7.5 billion refining project. The project would begin operations in 2014 as the second phase of CNOOC's Huizhou refinery in Guangdong province. Furthermore, PetroChina (NYSE: PTR), China's biggest oil producer, has just completed a joint venture agreement with Britain's Ineos Group that would permit the Chinese company to expand its international refining activities to Scotland and France.

My conclusion to all this activity is straightforward: With its Chinese backing and its expanding offshore concentration, I won't take my eyes off CNOOC, even for a moment.  

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