The China syndrome

CNOOC's losing bid to buy Unocal raised China-United States issues -- or was it the other way around?

By Aaron Kinney
August 12, 2005 4:40PM (UTC)
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"Who can it be CNOOC-in' at my door? Go away, don't come 'round here no more."

That, with apologies to Men at Work, was the message from Unocal shareholders this week as they accepted a takeover bid from Chevron Corp., turning down a controversial offer from China National Offshore Oil Corp. The bid by the partly state-owned CNOOC sparked fears in Washington that China would grab some of the natural gas and oil reserves that Unocal controls.


Call it a bad month for the Chinese with respect to U.S. trade policy. They were spurned not only by Unocal board members and shareholders but also by the Bush administration, which reportedly won passage of the U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement, or CAFTA, by assuring key members of Congress that it would push for import quotas on Chinese textiles.

In praising the Chevron takeover, Unocal CEO Charles Williamson adopted a Bushian -- "he's a good man" -- sort of rhetorical stance. "Chevron is a fine company," he said. "They have a global perspective. They have comparable values."

Williamson said he was surprised by the extent to which CNOOC's bid raised "greater China-United States issues." Shareholder Rick Somerville agreed that the political climate may have caused CNOOC to be "locked out" of the negotiations, but he had warm feelings for Unocal's vanquished suitor. CNOOC's lucrative bid for Unocal forced Chevron to raise its own bid for the company. Somerville said he was "grateful to the Chinese because they made us a little more money."

Aaron Kinney

Aaron Kinney is a writer in San Francisco. He has a blog.

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