CNOOC-Nexen deal

Zhang Zhirong pays US$14m to settle US insider case

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 October, 2012, 7:31pm


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Well Advantage, a Hong Kong company controlled by Zhang Zhirong, agreed to pay US$14 million to resolve United States regulatory claims that it profited from illegal trades before CNOOC's announcement that it would buy Nexen.

The settlement, which still must be approved by US Judge Richard Sullivan, amounted to double the illicit profits Well Advantage was alleged to have made when it stockpiled shares of Nexen based on confidential knowledge of the pending deal, the Securities and Exchange Commission said on Thursday.

Nexen's stock rose more than 50 per cent on July 23 after CNOOC, China's largest offshore oil and gas explorer, said it would pay US$15.1 billion in cash to acquire the Calgary-based company.

Well Advantage's owner, Zhang, is the controlling shareholder of China Rongsheng Heavy Industries Group Holdings, a company that engaged in significant business activities with CNOOC, the SEC said.

"The speedy resolution of this case shows the serious consequences that await traders who engage in insider trading," said Sanjay Wadhwa, a deputy head of the SEC's enforcement unit that polices for market abuse.

Well Advantage neither admits nor denies the charges, according to the SEC statement. The agency has sharpened its focus on Chinese companies in recent years.

Alan Brudner, a lawyer for Well Advantage, declined to comment. Zhang declined to comment before the approval of the settlement, according to a spokesman for Zhang.

Rongsheng said yesterday it was not in an "appropriate" position to comment on the personal issues of its chairman.

The mainland Chinese shipbuilder had said earlier that its day-to-day operations would not be affected by the case as Zhang had a non-executive role.

Zhang, 43, is the chairman and founder of Rongsheng and mainland Chinese developer Glorious Property Holdings.

Rongsheng won an order from state-owned CNOOC to build a deepwater pipe-laying vessel in 2007 and CNOOC was one of the cornerstone investors in its initial public offering in Hong Kong in November 2010.