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China International Trust & Investment Corp. will pay $1.9-billion (U.S.) to buy the Kazakhstan oil assets of Calgary's Nations Energy Co., adding reserves to meet surging demand in the world's fastest-growing major economy.

CITIC, a government investment company, is buying assets that produce 50,000 barrels of oil a day and hold more than 340 million barrels of oil equivalent, Nations Energy said. CITIC may build a refinery in Kazakhstan, assistant-president Zhang Jijing said in a statement.

The acquisition marks China's latest victory in the chase for oil with India after China National Petroleum Corp.'s $4.2-billion purchase of PetroKazakhstan Inc. last year. China, the world's second-largest energy user, has funded construction of pipelines in Kazakhstan to gain access to reserves that are twice as big as those of the North Sea.

The field, being "close to the Chinese market, allows you to take advantage of existing pipeline infrastructure and the potential to bring the oil to market," said Gavin Thompson, Beijing-based country manager for China at Wood MacKenzie Ltd., an energy consultant.

Shares of CITIC Resources Holdings Ltd., a unit of Beijing-based CITIC, rose 13 per cent, the biggest gain in more than nine months, to $1.62 Hong Kong (21 cents) on the Hong Kong stock market.

CITIC Resources bought 51 per cent of an Indonesian oil field for $97-million, gaining access to 39 million barrels of gross oil reserves, the company said July 13.

CITIC's statement yesterday didn't mention its unit. Mr. Zhang, the only official authorized to speak about the transaction, didn't return calls.

India, China and Chinese oil companies are scouring for oil assets in countries including Angola, Venezuela, Kenya and Indonesia. Chinese President Hu Jintao visited his Kazakh counterpart, Nursultan Nazarbayev, in July last year to discuss construction of pipelines to transport oil and gas to China.

India is trailing China in the quest for oil to feed its economy. The countries, the world's fastest-growing major economies, were planning a joint bid for Nations Energy assets in Kazakhstan, people with knowledge of the proposal said in June. India's Oil & Natural Gas Corp. lost PetroKazakhstan to the bid by China National.

Kazakhstan, with 3.3 per cent of the world's proven oil reserves, plans to triple output to 3.6 million barrels a day by 2015, equivalent to about 4 per cent of the world's output last year or a third of Saudi Arabia's production.

The Kazakh government has yet to decide whether to waive its pre-emptive rights on the assets, Nations Energy said in the statement yesterday. China National signed an agreement with the Kazakh government in October of last year to sell a 33-per-cent stake of PetroKazakhstan to the central Asian nation's state oil and gas company.

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