While a blowout well continues spewing crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, BP's global rivals are circling like vultures, ready to devour any assets that the disaster-strained company might reluctantly shake off.
Among them are China's cash-rich, Big Three oil companies. They are particularly interested in BP's upstream assets in Central Asia and Africa, and are certain to join a list of potential buyers if BP (BP 29.58, -0.10, -0.33%) (UK:BP. 334.40, +0.20, +0.06%) is forced to sell the family silver.
BP's costs connected to the runaway oil spill -- America's worst environmental disaster -- could include compensation for at least the estimated 30,000 plaintiffs currently suing the company for damage inflicted on fisheries, tourism and marine transport along the Gulf Coast. More individuals and companies were expected to sue in the future....
...And in addition to CNPC, the Chinese giants Sinopec (HK:386 6.52, +0.06, +0.93%) (SNP 82.84, +1.22, +1.50%) and China National Offshore Oil Corp. (Cnooc) (HK:883 13.78, -0.02, -0.15%) (CEO 176.41, +2.02, +1.16%) are closely watching developments in the Gulf.
Cnooc has a special reason for interest in BP's Gulf assets. As early as 1997, the Chinese company began low-key cooperation with the U.S. oil company Kerr-McGee (APC 39.85, -1.85, -4.44%) to explore in the Gulf. And in 2005, Cnooc tried but failed to buy America's Unocal (CVX 72.27, -1.73, -2.34%) .
Last November, Cnooc found a new way into the Gulf by acquiring, through a subsidiary, partial interest in four exploration blocks in U.S. waters owned by Norway's Statoil.
But Cnooc is not as advanced in deep-sea technologies as other companies. And a proposed acquisition could be blocked by the U.S. Foreign Investment Review Board.
Moreover, sources close to CNPC and Sinopec officials say these companies are more interested in BP assets in parts of the world where they already do business, such as Central Asia, Africa and Latin America. See this report on Caixin Online.