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North America Is China's New Sandbox

By David Smith - Updated Apr 6, 2017 at 12:31PM

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Conoco sells its share of Syncrude Canada oil sands project.

It's almost as if the entire world needs a latter-day Paul Revere to ride across the various oil venues warning that "The Chinese are coming."

China is working feverishly -- and expensively -- to gather up as much of the globe's black gold as possible, with an eye toward supplying fuel to its own increasingly voracious economy. Thus far the Chinese, through various state-owned companies, have made or attempted to make deals with oil companies or governments in areas including Canada, South America, the Gulf of Mexico, and Africa. And now it appears they're about to land again on North America.

As you know, ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP) announced not long ago that it would part with about $10 billion of its assets, in addition to half of its 20% interest in Russia's huge oil company, Lukoil. The total sales are expected to yield about $15 billion for Houston-based Conoco, the third-largest U.S.-based oil company.

It now appears that the international portion of China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. (NYSE: SNP) -- aka Sinopec -- will spend about $4.65 billion to acquire Conoco's 9.03% interest in the Syncrude Canada oil sands project.

One of Sinopec's partners in the project is Imperial Oil (AMEX: IMO), which is 69% owned by ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM). In capturing a piece of Syncrude, Sinopec has won a position in the largest of the Canadian oil sands projects, a producer of about 280,000 barrels a day.

This latest deal is not the first time Chinese interests have spent money on the Canadian oil sands. Earlier this year, PetroChina (NYSE: PTR) parted with $1.89 billion for a portion of the Athabasca project. It also follows China's largest offshore operator, CNOOC (NYSE: CEO), which picked up a Gulf of Mexico stake in 2009 and more recently agreed to acquire an Argentine oil and gas producer. Finally, this year, it has also acquired three blocks in Uganda in partnership with France's Total (NYSE: TOT).

I continue to believe that no portfolio should be devoid of energy companies, whether oil and gas producers or oilfield services entities. Given the company's resolute approach to its planned restructuring, I must admit to looking more favorably at ConocoPhillips. Beyond that, the peripatetic CNOOC also appears to merit Foolish observation.

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Stocks Mentioned

CNOOC Limited Stock Quote
CNOOC Limited
ConocoPhillips Stock Quote
$84.64 (-6.97%) $-6.34
Exxon Mobil Corporation Stock Quote
Exxon Mobil Corporation
$84.81 (-3.13%) $-2.74
PetroChina Company Limited Stock Quote
PetroChina Company Limited
$44.47 (-6.08%) $-2.88
TotalEnergies Stock Quote
$51.15 (-3.18%) $-1.68
Imperial Oil Limited Stock Quote
Imperial Oil Limited
$44.54 (-5.62%) $-2.65
China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation Stock Quote
China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation
$43.67 (-3.26%) $-1.47

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

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