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BP head to visit China next month to seek oil deals

AFP , SHANGHAI

Head of British oil major BP, Lord John Browne, will visit China next month and meet with its three largest oil companies amid reports his company is seeking an ambitious deal with Sinopec, the company said yesterday.

"Browne will come to China for a regular visit as a member of the advisory board of Tsinghua University," BP spokesman Michael Zhao said. "Of course he will use this opportunity to meet all of BP's partners while he is here."

China's major oil companies are China National Petroleum Corp, CNOOC (China National Offshore Oil Corp) and Sinopec (China Petroleum Chemical Corp).

Of them, Sinopec is holding high-level discussions with BP on a deal which could equal BP's historic seven billion dollars joint venture with Tyumen Oil Co in Russia two years ago, the Financial Times said last week.

A deal with the Hong Kong-listed Sinopec would help BP gain access to the market for refining and oil sales in what is now the fastest-growing major economy in terms of energy use, the newspaper reported.

The Chinese firm would in return get a boost in exploration, where it currently lags behind domestic rivals PetroChina and CNOOC, it added.

A BP executive was quoted as saying: "Browne has big ambitions for China. China needs the feedstock, BP has got it and BP wants access to the market."

However, any deal is greatly complicated by Beijing's desire to keep its strategically vital oil industry under domestic control.

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