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March 9, 2010

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PetroChina marks 1st foray

PETROCHINA and Royal Dutch Shell have made a joint bid for Arrow Energy for at least A$3.3 billion (US$3 billion), marking the first foray by a Chinese firm in Australia's coal seam gas sector.

Sydney-listed Arrow said yesterday that it has received a non-binding, conditional bid from a company jointly owned by Shell and PetroChina that would give shareholders A$4.45 in cash per share, a premium of 28 percent from its last traded price last Friday, plus a share in a new entity comprising Arrow's international business.

Shell and PetroChina have confirmed they were in discussions to acquire Arrow, excluding its international assets. Arrow has previously announced its intention to list its international business. It is unclear how large a role PetroChina is playing in the joint bid.

Arrow's shares soared 46.8 percent to close at A$5.11 yesterday, indicating that investors are expecting a higher takeover price.

Arrow's board has recommended shareholders to take no action on the offer.

Coal seam gas, trapped stores of natural gas well below the Earth's surface, is a new and under-utilized energy source. Although international energy giants such as UK-based BG Group and United States producer ConocoPhillips have made similar investment in Queensland to secure the gas resource, it's the first time for a Chinese firm to do so.

Arrow has the largest reserves of coal seam gas in Queensland. In China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, PetroChina has teamed up with Arrow to explore the coal seam gas to reduce reliance on coal and crude oil.

Several attempts by Chinese firms to invest in Australian counterparts have failed, including PetroChina's US$40 billion offer for Woodside Petroleum's liquefied natural gas resources and a US$20 billion deal between Rio Tinto and Chinalco.


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