China’s CNOOC lauds Canadian approval of Nexen buy

Updated 09 December 2012
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China’s CNOOC lauds Canadian approval of Nexen buy

BEIJING: China's state-owned CNOOC said yesterday that it is delighted that the Canadian Ministry of Industry has approved its $15.1 billion proposed takeover of Canadian oil and gas producer Nexen.
Once finalized, it will be China's largest overseas energy acquisition, coming at a time when other Chinese companies such as Huawei encounter difficulties in expanding in North America.
Wang Yilin, chairman of China National Offshore Oil Co., said the approval is recognition of the acquisition's long-term economic benefits for Calgary, Alberta and Canada.
Nexen is headquartered in Calgary in Canada's Alberta province and is to remain there after CNOOC's takeover. "I express my appreciation for Canada's welcome of our investment," Wang said in a statement yesterday.
CNOOC Chief Executive Officer Li Fanrong said the takeover will bring opportunities for Nexen employees, partners and CNOOC. "We are delighted that the Ministry of Industry has concluded that this transaction represents a 'net benefit' to Canada," he said.
China's Ministry of Commerce could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Despite the approval, the Canadian government said it will reject any future takeovers in the oil sands sector by foreign state-owned companies unless there are exceptional circumstances. "To be blunt, Canadians have not spent years reducing ownership of sectors of the economy by our own governments only to see them bought and controlled by foreign governments instead," Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said.
In 2005, US lawmakers blocked a CNOOC $18.5 billion bid to buy the oil company Unocal over national security concerns.
Harper's Conservative government has been studying whether CNOOC's deal and a smaller foreign takeover, Malaysian state-owned oil firm Petronas' $5.2 billion bid for Progress Energy, represent a "net benefit" to the country. The Harper government also approved the Petronas deal on Friday.
Concerns had been raised that approvals could lead to a flood of deals that put control of Canada's vast energy resources in Chinese hands, but Harper said the approvals should be seen as the end of a trend and not the beginning. He said no other industrialized country would allow a major sector of its economy to be taken over by state-owned companies from another country.
The prime minister noted that 15 companies dominate production in the Alberta oil sands and said the sector represents 60 percent of all the oil production around the world that is not already in state hands. He feared a few larger purchases by foreign state-owned companies could rapidly transform the industry from one that is essentially a free market industry to one that is effectively under the control of a foreign government.
Canada's new position may not go over well in China where they are eager for an even greater share of Canada's oil. Alberta has the world's third-largest oil reserves after Saudi Arabia and Venezuela: More than 170 billion barrels. Daily production of 1.5 million barrels from the oil sands is expected to increase to 3.7 million in 2025.
CNOOC and other big state-owned Asian energy companies have increased purchases of oil and gas assets in the Americas as part of a global strategy to gain access to resources needed to fuel their economies. Chinese companies have moved more carefully since CNOOC tried seven years ago to buy Unocal but was rejected by US lawmakers who cited national security fears.
Harper's government originally turned down Petronas' bid for Progress Energy in October. The government did not publicly explain the decision to block the deal but said a new policy framework for foreign takeovers would be released soon. Petronas was allowed to reapply.
The decision to turn it down in October raised doubts about whether Canada is open to foreign investment.
Harper's Conservative government also rejected Anglo-Australian BHP Billiton's hostile takeover bid for Potash Corp. in 2010 and the sale of Vancouver-based MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates' space-technology division to an American company in 2008.
But Harper has lobbied the Chinese to invest in Canada's energy sector and has said billions in foreign investment is needed to develop Canada's vast oil and gas deposits. Turning down CNOOC's bid would have harmed relations with China.
Harper said the Nexen transaction by itself did not raise fears. Most analysts believed the deal would be approved because more than 70 percent of Nexen's assets are outside Canada. Analysts say a company like Suncor, Canada's largest oil company, would have been off limits.
Nexen, a mid-tier energy company in Canada, operates in western Canada, the Gulf of Mexico, North Sea, Africa and the Middle East, with its biggest reserves in the Canadian oil sands. It produced an average of 213,000 barrels of oil a day in the second quarter of this year. The acquisition vastly expands CNOOC's holdings in Canada, where the company has already invested about $2.8 billion. Chinese state-owned company has invested billions in Canadian energy in recent years.
Nexen's board approved the takeover in July after CNOOC offered a 62 percent premium on the stock price. Shareholders voted overwhelmingly to support the deal in September. The deal still needs approval in Britain and the US where Nexen also has assets.
The stock has long traded at 10 percent discount to the offer on fears Canada would not approve the takeover. The stock jumped 15 percent, or $3.43 to $26.95, in afterhours trading in New York after closing down 6.5 percent in the regular session after the government said an announcement would be made after the close. Progress also traded down 5.4 percent in the regular session on fears Canada wouldn't approve that deal.
In an apparent show of commitment to Canada's interests, CNOOC is pledging to set up a regional headquarters in Calgary, Alberta, where Nexen is based. It also says it will keep the Canadian company's management and projects in place and list shares on the Canadian bourse in Toronto.
Petronas has also made a series of promises in the proposed takeover of Progress.
John Manley, president of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, applauded the decisions to approve the deals, noting Canada needs foreign capital. "The decision to approve the acquisitions of Nexen Inc. and Progress Energy Resources Corp. sends a positive signal to investors in Canada and around the world," Manley said.
First Asset Investment Management Analyst John Stephenson said foreign state-owned companies will continue to grab minority stakes in Canada's oil sector.


Telegram Russia ban spurs privacy debate

Updated 21 April 2018
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Telegram Russia ban spurs privacy debate

  • Telegram has always attracted a mix of criticism and respect for its use of encryption to ensure its messages between users remain confidential.
  • A Moscow court decided last week to block the app in Russia because it refused to hand over encryption keys to authorities.

LONDON: Telegram, the messaging app that re-located from Russia to Dubai, has again fallen foul of the authorities in its mother country. So what is it about the social media platform that simultaneously has governments worldwide so concerned and freedom of speech advocates so agitated?
Telegram has always attracted a mix of criticism and respect for its use of encryption to ensure its messages between users remain confidential.
A Moscow court decided last week to block the app in Russia because it refused to hand over encryption keys to authorities — sparking fresh controversy around the app, which has previously been banned in countries such as Iran, Afghanistan and Indonesia.
Telegram has been under close scrutiny in Russia since legislation was passed in mid-2016 that required communication companies to hand over encryption keys to the Federal Security Service (FSB), if requested.
There was also a move to place companies on a “register of information distributors,” which requires firms to store user online communications for a set period of time and hand over data to the authorities when needed.

 


Some of Russia’s large social networks are reportedly on the register and Telegram was pressurized to register in mid-2017. Other Western social media companies such as WhatsApp are not listed. WhatsApp did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Weeks after joining the register, Telegram refused to agree to FSB requests for encryption keys, resulting in the Russian media watchdog Roskomnadzor seeking court approval this month to block the app.
On the day of the court decision, Telegram’s founder Pavel Durov tweeted: “Privacy is not for sale, and human rights should not be compromised out of fear or greed.” The company has also said it is technically impossible to transfer encryption keys.
It was not the Russian entrepreneur Durov’s first run-in with Russian authorities. Telegram — which was launched in 2013 — originally had its development team based in St. Petersburg, but had to leave the country due to local IT regulations. It is currently based in Dubai.
The messaging app prides itself in being the most secure and independent form of instant messaging that respects the need for privacy. Its “secret chats” option makes use of end-to-end encryption that ensures only users can read them. Messages cannot be forwarded and you can order messages to “self-destruct” within a set amount of time. It can also alert users if the recipient of the message takes a screenshot of the correspondence. So-called Telegram “Channels” can be used to broadcast public messages to a large audiences.
While WhatsApp — which is owned by Facebook — also provides end-to-end encryption, Telegram differentiates itself with claims it is faster and more secure.
Damir Gainutdinov is a legal analyst at Russian human rights group Agora, which represented Telegram in court. He has headed up its project on the defense of online freedom in Russia since 2010.
He told Arab News that the block placed on Russia was more of a power-play by the authorities.
“I think that Russian authorities believe that Telegram is a threat because they cannot control it.
“But I wouldn’t say that it is really the biggest threat. The attack on Telegram is more about showing that they can block any global service if they want,” he said.
Russia’s government has argued that the app helps to enable terrorist attacks in the country, saying that access to encrypted messages is a national security issue.
The FSB said a suicide bomber who killed 15 people on a St. Petersburg subway in April last year had used Telegram to plan the attack.
Voices from outside Russia have also criticized Telegram for not doing enough to clamp down on terrorists using the app. “Terrorists and extremist groups such as ISIS (Daesh) use encrypted applications like Telegram because it allows them to recruit new members, fundraise, incite to violence, and even coordinate terrorist activity without the threat of being discovered,” said executive director David Ibsen at the US-based non-government organization Counter-Extremism Project.
“ISIS also created public channels on Telegram to broadcast pro-ISIS news updates and disseminate other propaganda materials,” he told Arab News. Durov has been quoted as saying at a conference in 2015 that the right to privacy is more important to the company than “our fear of bad things happening, like terrorism.” Following the Paris attacks in 2015, Telegram did revise its policy on its public channels, but it has refused to take down private Daesh chats, according to Ibsen.
Social media sites are coming under increasing pressure from authorities worldwide to do more to limit the promotion of extremism online.
In a statement to Arab News, Twitter said it had permanently suspended 274,460 sites in the second half of last year — down more than 8 percent on the previous reporting period.
While Telegram is far from the only social media app to be criticized for its counter-terrorism policies, it is seen by some as the more reluctant player in the battle against online extremism. “Social media companies remove content regularly that violates their stated terms of service, and some of this includes extremist and terrorist videos, images and other propaganda,” said Ibsen. “However, despite the availability of technology that can identify and permanently prevent prohibited materials from being re-uploaded, the biggest social media platforms are not taking this vitally important step,” he said.
“Telegram has become a refuge app from the moment the preferred apps (Twitter in particular) started to clamp down on extremist content,” said Rik Coolsaet, a professor of international relations at Ghent University in Belgium who has written extensively on counter-terrorism efforts. “Its encryption offered a secure environment for terrorist recruiters and groomers, but at the same time limited their propaganda outreach, since it is more difficult to access. For that reason, Twitter remains their preferred app,” he added.
Russia is not the only country clamping down on Telegram. Iran restricted certain channels in December last year during the protests and there have been recent threats that restrictions could be reimposed. A estimated 40 million Iranians use Telegram’s channels and messaging services.
“In the case of Russia and Iran, the Telegram crackdown has much more to do with controlling the lives of its citizens than it does with preventing terrorist activity,” said Ibsen.
Telegram did not respond to Arab News’ request for comment.

 

Q&A
We talk to leading world cyber terrorism expert Chris Sampson, co-author of “Hacking ISIS: How to Destroy the Cyber Jihad” and an analyst with the Terror Asymmetrics Project

Why are governments so worried about Telegram?
Telegram was launched as an encrypted messaging app. This meant that government agencies were less likely to be able to intercept messages passing across the Internet and read private conversations. However, in September 2015, Telegram also created an option for channels, which act like chat groups. This allowed like-minded individuals to essentially host a chat room. Unless the channel was set to public you couldn’t read what was discussed without being given an invitation link. Groups like ISIS began using these channels to share propaganda and information. Other groups use Telegram in much the same manner. Non-violent resistance groups around the world would also use the messaging app and channels to communicate so authorities in the countries they fear would be less likely to intercept their discussions.

Will clamping down on social media apps be effective?
As governments crack down and ban apps, others will rise and replace them with new features and focus on security from outside eyes. They will operate either within the legal construct or outside of it depending on the countries they seek to circumvent. Since laws around the world differ dramatically, what is legal in one country could be illegal in another. We’ve seen this already happen as countries sought to ban use of Telegram, WhatsApp or even Twitter. Inevitably the access to the technology remains the same and users find a way to use both encrypted messaging and social media platforms.

Does Russia’s action set a precedent?
Countries such as Indonesia, Iran, Afghanistan and others have banned Telegram. Brazil banned WhatsApp around the timing of the World Cup only to lift the ban. Such bans are largely ineffective because the majority of users are engaged in lawful communications yet want their privacy, those engaged in illegal and potentially violent activities make up a fraction of the userbase. The better solution is to know where nefarious users are lurking on the web and keep track of them in observable spaces. Banning the public’s access to messaging apps will always fail. Telegram and similar companies should deny government agencies the keys to encryption unless there is a reason given that would justify unlocking communications. If the governments are able to seize a phone and unlock it, they’ll already have access to a suspect’s communication if they haven’t erased the data.

Decoder

Telegram

Telegram, founded by Russian entrepreneur Pavel Durov in 2013, is an app that enables encrypted messaging, together with “self-destruct” messages. It is used by 200 million people worldwide. Authorities in a number of countries criticized it for providing secure communications channels for terrorists and criminals.