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China’s Sinopec Puts $1B Argentina Oil Assets Up For Sale

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Argentina’s losses on its oil and gas assets, as well as its labor disputes, have prompted China’s Sinopec to consider selling its operations in the country.

Sinopec advisors have offered up some of its assets to about a dozen large firms from the U.S., Latin America, Europe, Africa, and Russia, Reuters reported on Monday, citing three sources familiar with the plans.

In total, there could be more than 15 potential suitors for Sinopec’s assets, according to one of Reuters’ sources. Possible buyers include Angola’s state oil firm Sonangol and two Russian energy majors, including Rosneft. Mexico’s Vista Oil & Gas is also interested, while Argentina’s holding group Corporacion America will study buying some Sinopec assets in Santa Cruz via its energy company Compania General de Combustibles (CGC), Corporacion America’s spokeswoman Carolina Barros told Reuters. 

The assets, mostly in the Santa Cruz province in southern Argentina, could be worth between US$750 million and US$1 billion, according to one of Reuters’ sources.

This price tag would be way less than the US$2.45 billion Sinopec paid back in 2010 to buy Occidental Petroleum’s assets in Argentina. The 2010 acquisition marked Sinopec’s entry into the country at a time when Chinese companies were looking to buy assets abroad to offset domestic production declines. But the oil price crash has caused Sinopec to start booking large losses on its Argentinian operations.

According to an internal company audit reported by Chinese magazine Caixin and the Financial Times in September 2016, Sinopec had incurred US$550 million in operating losses in just three years on its Argentinian assets, and at oil prices at US$60 per barrel or lower, Sinopec would lose US$2.5 billion over the projects’ lifetime.

Related: Oil Prices May Hit $60 By End Of 2017

Although Argentina’s government announced the signing of a deal with oil industry unions in Santa Cruz at the end of last month, Sinopec may find its mature assets a tough sell due to declining oil production, as well as labor and cost issues.

“It doesn’t have to be [fast], unless Sinopec is willing to lose a huge amount of money,” one of Reuters’ sources said, referring to the possible sale.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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