Sinochem Corp. won the bidding for a $3.07-billion (U.S.) stake in a Statoil offshore oil field in Brazil, Statoil ASA said Friday, marking China's second major oil and gas deal in Latin America since March.
China's CNOOC and Sinopec, parent of Asia's top refiner Sinopec Corp., also bid for the stake, industry sources have said.
The move comes as China's state-owned energy firms scour the globe for high-quality assets to help fuel economic growth in the world's third-largest economy. In November, Norway's Statoil said it could cut its 100 per cent stake in its Peregrino field.
"The divestment is a natural step in our continuous effort to optimize our portfolio," Statoil chief executive officer Helge Lund said in a statement.
Four Chinese companies were originally involved in the bidding process, it was reported in March.
Sinopec's heavy exposure to China's tightly-controlled refining sector has prompted the company to diversify into exploration and production projects overseas, such as its most recent $4.65-billion deal for ConocoPhillips's 9 per cent stake in a Syncrude Canada Ltd. oil sands project.
"This is very significant because it would be Sinopec's and Sinochem's first deepwater project," said Gordon Kwan, head of regional energy research for Mirae Asset Securities, referring to the Peregrino stake.
"In light of what happened to BP and Transocean, this is a very gutsy move into deepwater - especially for a Chinese company to operate in foreign soil."
Sinopec, which did not conclude the deal with Statoil, is already present in Brazil.
In April, it received rights to develop two oil blocks off Brazil's northern coast under an agreement signed with state oil company Petrobras,
On Tuesday, Sinopec said oil imports from Brazil should reach 200,000 barrels a day next year, up 43 per cent from 2010 as China's overall crude imports reach new highs.
"On a single bid project, it's very high-risk," Mirae's Mr. Kwan said. "It's technologically very challenging. But in the overall portfolio, this is a smart move because in deepwater, you can find very big reserves."
China's oil and gas companies, tasked by the government with securing supplies, announced roughly $18.8-billion in outbound acquisitions last year alone, according to Thomson Reuters data.
In March, CNOOC purchased a $3.1-billion stake in Argentina's Bridas Holdings, giving it a foothold in reserve-rich Latin America in an attempt at easing investor worries about its aggressive output targets.
Statoil said the divestment would cut its equity production guiding for 2012 by 40,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd) to a range of 2.06-2.16 million barrels per day.
"The company remains committed to complete the Peregrino development as planned, operate the field efficiently, and to explore further growth opportunities in the region," Statoil said, adding it had agreed with Sinochem to jointly investigate further opportunities in Brazil and elsewhere.