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U.S. Gas Producer Taps Sovereign Funds Amid Offshore Oil Anxiety

By Darrell Delamaide | Wed, 23 June 2010 13:21 | 0

Chesapeake Energy, a leading U.S. producer of shale gas, found plenty of willing buyers for its latest private placement as sovereign wealth funds in Asia expressed concern about the future of offshore oil drilling.

“We made the investment decision because the long-term gas price outlook is bright on a global push for clean energy and expectations of less deep-sea water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico after BP’s oil spill,” the Korean Investment Company said in a statement announcing it was buying $200 million of Chesapeake’s $900 million preferred share issue.

China Investment Corp. and Temasek Holdings of Singapore were two other Asian sovereign wealth funds (SWFs) acquiring shares, Chesapeake announced. News reports said the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, generally thought to be the world’s biggest SWF, also bought some shares.

The new share sale comes on the heels of $1.7 billion in preferred shares that the Oklahoma City-based natural gas producer sold in a private placement last month, including $500 million to Temasek at that time.

SWFs kill two birds with one stone when they buy into energy projects. Returns are generally higher than in straight stocks and bonds, and they reinforce the energy security of their countries.

“At a time when various sovereign funds are strengthening strategic investments, investment in a natural-gas producer will play a part in securing energy resources,” is the way the Korean fund put it.

The Gulf oil spill in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon accident has led the U.S. government to impose a six-month moratorium on offshore drilling, casting doubt on the future of the industry.

However, a federal judge in Louisiana this week overturned the government ban, saying it doesn’t take account of the economic harm such a stoppage will cause in the region.

U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman said the government has not proven that the equipment used in deepwater drilling is flawed just because it failed in this instance.

“Are all airplanes a danger because one was?” the judge wrote in his order. “All oil tankers like Exxon Valdez? All trains? All mines? That sort of thinking seems heavy-handed, and rather overbearing.”

By. Darrell Delamaide

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