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A Pengrowth Energy Corp. pipeline in Alberta.

Ewan Nicholson

Pengrowth Energy Corp. has scrapped a $180-million deal to sell Alberta oil assets to a private company backed by a Chinese-Thai billionaire after financing for transaction fell through.

The move is a setback for Pengrowth as it tries to patch up finances bruised by more than three years of weak oil prices. Calgary-based Pengrowth did not disclose the buyer involved in the failed acquisition of properties in the Swan Hills region of northwest Alberta. However, sources said it was Grand Valley Resources, a private startup company backed by the Reignwood Group, itself led by Chinese-Thai businessman Chanchai Ruayrungruang.

Reignwood's best-known assets include an eponymous office complex in central Beijing as well as the Chinese rights to the Red Bull energy drink. Mr. Ruayrungruang's net worth is $2.9-billion (U.S.), according to Forbes.

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He is one of several wealthy Chinese executives scouting for deals in Canada's downtrodden energy industry, which has seen bankruptcies spike among producers struggling through nearly four years of downturn.

More than $3-billion (Canadian) of private Chinese capital has flooded the oil patch, often targeting distressed assets and companies in a takeover binge that has largely escaped public notice. The influx has also helped banks stem losses on soured loans to heavily indebted producers.

Such transactions have in some cases been hampered by Chinese restrictions on moving money abroad. Pengrowth first announced the deal with the Reignwood-backed group on March 20, with an initial closing date of May 31.

Reignwood was also involved in an aborted deal for bankrupt Twin Butte Energy before that company was acquired by a unit of Sinoenergy Investment Corp., another Chinese group that has become a big buyer of insolvent firms. Similarly, its purchase of Twin Butte was held up by difficulty securing financing.

A spokesman for Pengrowth declined further comment on Tuesday. In a release, it said the purchaser "has now indicated that it is unable to complete its financing for the acquisition and, as such, Pengrowth has given notice of termination of the sale agreement announced on March 20, 2017 and has requested that the $18-million deposit, currently being held in escrow be released to Pengrowth." The company said it would restart the sales process for the Swan Hills property.

The firm, which counts Canadian billionaire Seymour Schulich among its largest shareholders, has been selling assets in a bid to cut debt amassed when crude fetched more than double current levels.

On Tuesday, the company said it had also reached a deal to sell an additional $300-million of properties in central Alberta to a private company backed by an unnamed Canadian life insurance company.

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The assets include production of nearly 14,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boe/d) and related processing infrastructure, and proved plus probable reserves equivalent to 78 million barrels. Closing is expected by Aug. 1.

Including the latest deal, Pengrowth has notched $827-million in sales since the start of the year, with proceeds aimed at debt repayment.

The company's remaining assets include the Lindbergh steam-driven oil sands project as well as holdings in the Groundbirch Montney region of British Columbia.

Pengrowth also slashed its production guidance for the year, citing the impact of asset sales and the terminated agreement. It now expects to pump 41,500 to 43,500 boe/d, down from a previous range of 43,500 top 45,500 boe/d. Total capital spending is unchanged at $125-million.

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