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Shell, PetroChina Seek Australia Consent to Buy Arrow

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By James Paton

April 1 (Bloomberg) — Royal Dutch Shell Plc and PetroChina Co. have lodged an application with Australia’s Foreign Investment Review Board, seeking approval for their joint A$3.5 billion ($3.2 billion) acquisition of Arrow Energy Ltd.

The companies outlined their bid to buy Arrow’s Australian business for A$4.70 a share in cash and will provide additional information to the board in Canberra if requested, Phil Connole, a spokesman for Shell in Melbourne, said by phone today. Shell can’t comment on how long a decision will take, he said.

Shell and PetroChina agreed to acquire Brisbane-based Arrow as part of a joint venture after raising their offer from A$4.45 a share, Shell’s Australian unit said March 22. Arrow investors will also receive shares in a new company called Dart Energy Ltd. holding the explorer’s gas assets overseas and Arrow’s stakes in Australian-listed companies.

Australian lawmakers have increased scrutiny of resources takeovers by China, citing concerns the country may lose control of potentially strategic assets. Chinese companies spent a record $32 billion last year buying oil fields and coal and metal mines to supply the world’s fastest-growing major economy.

Ties between Australia and China, its largest trading partner, have been strained since four of Rio Tinto Group’s employees were arrested last year in Shanghai. Stern Hu, an Australian citizen who led Rio’s iron ore unit in China, was sentenced earlier this week to 10 years in prison after he and his three colleagues were convicted of taking bribes and stealing commercial secrets.

Australia will remain open to foreign investment in its resources industry when it is in the nation’s interests, Energy Minister Martin Ferguson said in January after Yanzhou Coal Mining Co.’s A$3.5 billion acquisition of Felix Resources Ltd.

The investment review board is unlikely to have significant concerns about the Arrow deal, Benjamin Wilson, an analyst at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in Sydney, said in a March 22 report.

To contact the reporter on this story: James Paton in Sydney at [email protected]

Last Updated: March 31, 2010 22:59 EDT

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