China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) signed a letter of intent with Japanese oil refiner Nippon Oil to purchase a 49% stake in an Osaka oil refinery, the Financial Times reported. The venture, expected to begin operating in April 2009, marks CNPC’s first investment in Japan. CNPC will provide crude oil for the plant and sell the output in China, while Nippon Oil will manage the facility. Nippon Oil, which faces surplus capacity as its domestic market shrinks, has been refining oil for CNPC subsidiary PetroChina on a contract basis since 2004. The letter of intent was signed last week during Chinese president Hu Jintao’s five-day visit to Japan.