One of the world’s largest oil finds of recent times sent shares in PetroChina, the listed arm of China National Petroleum Corp, surging on May 4 but the party was dampened a couple of weeks later as activists lobbying investors to sell out of the company claimed an initial victory.
PetroChina confirmed at the beginning of the month that it had "proven reserves" of 405 million tons of oil, about 3 billion barrels, in the shallow waters of the Bohai Bay, near Tianjin. It said there were also 111 million tons of oil equivalent in gas at the Jidong Nanpu field.
The company’s shares in Hong Kong jumped 13% after the announcement to US$1.33.
The large find could theoretically help the company shift at least part of its focus towards domestic reserves and away from African fields – like those in trouble-ridden Sudan.
Two weeks later, PetroChina announced the find could be even bigger than originally thought but the news was drowned out by a very public victory party by activists targeting companies with investments in Sudan.
The company’s investments in the war-torn African country have long been the subject of controversy and the focus of lobbying by activists who want to end what they call genocide in the county’s Darfur region. They have been trying to convince large investors like Fidelity and Berkshire Hathaway to sell out of the state-owned company.
Two weeks after the find in the Bohai Sea was announced, Fidelity’s regulatory filings revealed it had sold 91% of its American Depository Receipts during the first quarter. The stock retreated slightly (less that 0.2%) the next day to close on May 18 at US$1.31, a day when the market lost 0.42%.
For its part, PetroChina did not react particularly strongly to the news, telling the Financial Times it "had not heard" of the sale.
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