Iran invites China to take part in US$43b oil projects

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 July, 2009, 12:00am

Iran is inviting China to get involved in deals in several huge oil projects worth more than US$42.8 billion, as the Islamic nation seeks to boost its crude refining capacity.

The projects touted by Tehran comprise upgrades and expansions of refineries, construction of seven new ones and building a 1,640-kilometre oil pipeline from Neka on the Caspian Sea in the north to Jask on the Gulf of Oman in the south.

The bulk of the investment - US$30 billion - being sought by the National Iranian Oil Refining & Distribution was for the seven new refineries in the west of the country, the Ministry of Petroleum of Iran told an investment promotion event in Beijing yesterday.

'We are definitely going to get contacts with Chinese oil companies from today's event,' said Shahnazi Zadeh, the deputy petroleum minister and president of National Iranian Oil. 'They will come to Iran to get in touch with us and invest in the oil refining sector, and we are also ready to invest in China by building new refineries here.'

The Iranian government is offering sweeteners to attract investment for its projects, such as a 5 per cent discount on the price of crude fed to the refineries, an eight-year tax exemption, and free and unlimited transfer by foreign investors of their profits from the projects.

The most attractive component is that foreign investors will be entitled to raise their equity holding by up to 80 per cent in all the new refinery projects and even higher for existing refineries that will be privatised.

China is actively hitting the international market for commodities such as copper, iron ore and oil to feed the country's roaring economic growth and better preserve the value of its US$2 trillion foreign exchange reserves against the volatility of major world currencies.

Last week, China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC), the mainland's biggest oil company, won a bid with BP to help boost the output in Iraq's largest oilfield.

That deal came after Sinopec Corp's US$7.2 billion successful bid last month for Addax Petroleum Corp, which has oil assets in Africa and Iraq.

Over the past few days, CNPC has been said to be seeking to buy a majority interest in the Argentine unit of Spanish energy giant Repsol-YPF for US$17 billion.

China National Offshore Oil Corp, the mainland's largest offshore oil company, was also reported to be interested in acquiring a 25 per cent stake in YPF.

Through its projects, Iran hopes to boost its petrol production capacity to 190 million litres per day by 2012 from 44 million.

Iran's oil industry is expected to need US$136.26 billion of investment between now and 2026, its gas industry US$236.84 billion, and its petrochemical industry US$50 billion.

But not all potential investors were convinced yesterday.

'The projects look impressive, but we need time to consider new policies and watch the trend of the political environment in the country before making any decision,' said Gao Yang, a project manager at the foreign co-operation office of Sinopec.

Last month's disputed presidential election in Iran triggered political turmoil that has not yet completely settled down.