Asian oil firms made a record amount of deals in 2012, including big buys in Canada's oil sands region, seen here.
China led the way, purchasing $31 billion in oil and gas assets, according to figures released Monday from PLS, a Houston-based industry data provider.
CNOOC's $18 billion buy of Canadian oil sands producer Nexen ( was the largest deal. Other large Chinese buys included a $2.5 billion deal with )Sinopec ( for assets from French oil giant )Total ( in Nigeria, and a $2.2 billion joint venture between )PetroChina ( and Canada's )Encana (. )
Malaysia's Petronas was also active in Canada, paying $5.8 billion for Progress Energy, an oil and gas company with extensive operations in British Columbia.
Asian firms were active in the United States too, with Sinopec paying $2.2 billion and Japan's Sumitomo paying $1.4 billion to develop shale plays with Devon Energy (Fortune 500). ,
"Energy demand in Asia is expected to grow significantly," said Brian Lidsky, a managing director at PLS "These firms are searching the world to secure those supplies."
Companies controlled by foreign governments buying up strategic assets like energy has raised national security concerns in the past. This was especially evident in 2005, when a bid by CNOOC ( to buy U.S. oil firm Unocal was thwarted by Congress. Several analysts think Canada will not be as open to foreign investment after the big deals of 2012. )
Yet others downplay the national security concerns, arguing that oil is a globally traded economy, so the more of it on the market the cheaper it will be for consumers everywhere. They say that, after years of rising consumption, it's about time Asian firms put up the capital to help get oil out of the ground.
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