The purchase by China National Offshore Oil Corp (CNOOC) of half of British Gas's 16.67 per cent share in the North Caspian oil fields in Kazakhstan will not now go ahead. Under the terms of the original purchase, the six other foreign participants in the deal had a pre-emptive right to buy the share at the US$615m price tag that CNOOC agreed to pay. Although Kazakhstan had said that it welcomed Chinese participation in the field, only Inpex said that it would not exercise the right. Royal Dutch Shell, ENI, Conoco, ExxonMobil, TotalFinaElf and Philips all said that they would buy the share.
Sinopec was thought likely to take the other half of the British Gas stake on the same terms as those negotiated with CNOOC but it is expected that the five companies would also buy that share as well. This exclusion from the field will set back Chinese hopes of reducing dependence on oil from the Middle East, which now supplies more than half of Chinese imports.