Resource-Hungry Asia Leaps at Canadian Oilsands

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"Last week, two more big deals totaling $2.4 billion were announced."

Many other Canadian resource industries have pulled in foreign dollars over the years, but the most notable in the past 18 months is the rush of Asian capital into our oilsands. Last week, two more big deals totaling $2.4 billion were announced, reinforcing the worth of the oilsands to energy-deficient countries such as China, Japan, Korea and Thailand.

The dominant transaction came from a new player to the region: PTT Exploration and Production. Hailing from Thailand, PTT bought a 40% stake in Statoil's oilsands project in Alberta for $2.3 billion.

The tally of Asian capital targeting the oilsands over the past 16 months is now about $11 billion.

For those companies in the oilsands region that have already staked good leases the news of flush foreign investors coming in and paying up is positive, much like owning beachfront property when no more is left to buy. It's hard to believe that too much money can spoil a beach party, but in the oil and gas business it can cast a negative pall over the industry without a lot of difficulty.

Problems always arise when large volumes of capital enter a constrained area with limited labour, especially when it happens over a relatively short period of time. The potential for runaway cost inflation—as was experienced between 2005 and 2008—is the number one concern in the oilsands right now.

Maintaining and encouraging access to new sources of capital, especially from cash-rich and resource-hungry Asia will be essential over the next decade if Canadians want to continue fueling prosperity, whether it's from oilsands, conventional oil or natural gas (or any other commodity for that matter).

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