Canadian Natural takeover rumor wilts, stock falls
CALGARY, Alberta, Jan 6 (Reuters) - Shares in Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. fell nearly 4 percent on Tuesday as investors bet that a takeover rumor that drove the stock up a day earlier may be unfounded.
Canadian Natural, the country's No. 3 oil explorer and producer, fell C$2.71 to C$67.95 on the Toronto Stock Exchange, giving back most of Monday's 5.5 percent gain.
The stock had jumped on speculation that French oil major Total could be considering a takeover bid for the Canadian firm, which operates at home, in the North Sea and offshore west Africa.
One analyst said such a deal would contradict earlier statements by Total officials that the French company was interested in participating in some oil sands projects, but not in conventional Canadian energy operations.
"Somewhere along the line somebody leaked something that was based on a wrong perception," said Wilf Gobert of brokerage Peters & Co. Ltd.
Canadian Natural, the largest of several energy concerns that count Calgary financier Murray Edwards as a major investor, is awaiting regulatory approval for its C$8.5 billion ($6.6 billion) Horizon oil sands mining project in Alberta, which would eventually pump 232,000 barrels a day.
That led to further speculation that Total could be interested in becoming a partner in the expensive venture.
However, Total has said it was more interested in oil sands developments in which tar-like bitumen is pumped to the surface with the aid of steam instead of mined, Gobert said.
Last year it took a 43.5 percent stake in the Surmont, Alberta, steam-assisted project operated by ConocoPhillips .
Canadian Natural executives said their firm preferred to operate Horizon by itself, but may consider a partner.
"But we've always said we'd rather have a business partner before we took an equity partner," Canadian Natural spokesman Corey Bieber said.
Bieber said he would not comment on any of the speculation. A Paris-based official with Total also declined to comment.
Gobert said he understood Total had been in talks with Canadian oil sands players to propose building a plant to process bitumen ************************************ There is no way IMO, will the Can govt allow any take-over of even part of this asset. HOWEVER, partnerships are another matter. At this point it is up to managment to decide.