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Energy diplomacy

CEFC China Energy: the oil and gas deals it quietly snapped up overseas

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 November, 2017, 9:04am
UPDATED : Friday, 24 November, 2017, 7:30pm

The arrest in the United States of former Hong Kong home affairs secretary Patrick Ho Chi-ping over an alleged multimillion-dollar bribery scheme in Africa has thrust the low-profile Chinese energy company accused of backing the deals into the spotlight.

Details in US court filings point to CEFC China Energy, a Shanghai-based rising star in the industry, as the unidentified firm pulling the strings behind the US$2.9 million in alleged bribes to leaders in Africa.

The private conglomerate and its non-profit Hong Kong-based China Energy Fund Committee – which Ho headed – denied the allegations in statements on Tuesday, adding they were “highly concerned” about the claims.

CEFC China Energy has grown into a US$25 billion giant energy conglomerate, becoming China’s sixth-largest private firm and landing billions in overseas energy deals for China, the world’s biggest oil importer.

As a major global energy player, CEFC China Energy has acquisitions across oil-rich nations in central Africa, eastern Europe, and the Middle East, helping China advance its “Belt and Road Initiative” ambitions.

Here are some of its key investments in recent years.

Russia

CEFC China Energy bought a 14.2 per cent stake in Russia’s largest oil producer Rosneft in a US$9.1 billion deal in September, making the Chinese company the third-biggest holder of Russian oil interests. The supply deal gives the Chinese conglomerate access to around 42 million tonnes of oil annually and about 2.67 billion tonnes of oil and gas reserves.

It has also made a US$500 million investment in the Russian metals and energy group En+. In July 2015, the company signed an official cooperation agreement with Russian gas company Gazprom for the transfer of equity in three oilfield sectors in East Siberia.

Chinese company denies bribery charge that led to arrest of Patrick Ho in US

United Arab Emirates

In February, CEFC China Energy made one of its biggest oil investments abroad with a US$900 million agreement with state-owned Abu Dhabi National Oil for a 4 per cent stake in the city’s giant onshore oil concession. This 40-year agreement granted access to over 3.2 million tonnes of crude oil annually. The Chinese firm also signed another long-term supply agreement for an extra 10 million tonnes of oil per year.

Chad

In September, CEFC China Energy bought a 35 per cent stake in oil blocks in Chad from Taiwan’s state-owned CPC Corporation in a US$110 million deal.

Chad government spurns charge that president scored US$2 million bribe from Patrick Ho

Kazakhstan

In December 2016, CEFC China Energy gained the controlling interest in KazMunayGas International, a wholly owned subsidiary of Kazakhstan’s state-owned oil and gas company. This gave the firm access to nearly 1,000 service stations in Europe, a refinery in Romania with a capacity of 100,0000 barrels per day as well as a platform to acquire more service stations and facilities in the region.

Czech Republic

The energy group is also reportedly leading a consortium in a US$587.6 million deal to buy Time Warner’s Central European Media Enterprises. CEFC China Energy already has a slew of corporate interests in the country, including majority stakes in a top brewing group, a publishing house, a top football club, and Czech airline Travel Service. It is also seeking to raise its stake in the Czech-Slovak J&T Finance Group to 50 per cent.

Georgia

The Chinese conglomerate recently indicated it wanted to build a tax-free industrial zone in Georgia, and signed a memorandum of understanding with the country’s government for a majority stake in the zone in mid-September. It also launched a commercial bank in Georgia.