By LIAM DENNING July 22, 2012, 4:15 p.m. ET
Oil firms have to go where the oil (and gas) is. Increasingly, that place is the U.S.
Over half of global upstream oil and gas mergers and acquisitions since the start of 2011 targeted U.S. assets, up from an average of 37% in the prior four years, according to consultancy IHS Herold. Besides a relatively open market for energy assets, the shale boom has drawn in companies seeking reserves and know-how.
But this shift in the center of gravity for oil M&A poses a quandary for one group of important buyers: China's national oil companies, or NOCs.
Their traditional strength—the backing of Beijing—doesn't work in the U.S. When Washington derailed CNOOC's $18.5 billion bid for Unocal in 2005, much was made of the potential for vital U.S. resources and technology being transferred to the Chinese government at a time when peak oil fears were taking hold.
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