Caution urged over further investment projects in Iran

By Liang Fei Source:Global Times Published: 2013-1-5 23:46:00

Chinese companies should not expand their investment in Iran at present, experts noted Saturday, after media reports said a China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) gas project in Iran is likely to be cancelled amid US and EU sanctions against the country.

"Chinese companies should focus on stabilizing their existing investment, instead of expanding further in the country," Lin Boqiang, director of the China Center for Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University, told the Global Times.

A 21st Century Business Herald report said Saturday the CNPC may withdraw from phase 11 of the South Pars offshore gas field in Iran, given political uncertainties in the country.

The Iranian government has agreed to offer another gas field for CNPC to develop instead, said the report, citing sources close to the matter.

The South Pars gas field is one of the largest in the world with total gas reserves of over 51,000 cubic kilometers.

In July 2009, CNPC signed an agreement with state-owned National Iranian Oil Co to develop phase 11 of the gas field. The agreement was worth $4.7 billion.

CNPC now has total investment of over $10 billion in Iran, said the report.

An official at CNPC's international business division said that the department had not received any information about the matter when contacted by the Global Times Saturday.

"Chinese companies, not only CNPC, are exposed to increasing political risks in Iran as it is still not clear what kind of policies the US will adopt toward Iran," Lin noted.

Lin also said China should further reduce the proportion of crude oil from the Middle East in China's total imports.

In 2002, imported oil from Middle East countries accounted for 39 percent of China's imports, and the level increased to 42 percent in 2011, according to Lin.

"China has opportunities in North America as well as Australia in terms of investment in energy and resources," Ji Li, an analyst specializing in overseas mergers and acquisitions at research company Zero2IPO Group, told the Global Times.

Lin echoed this opinion. "Chinese companies should tap into investment opportunities in Europe," he said.

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