InterviewCanadian chem union wary of NOVA's acquisition by Abu Dhabi

25 February 2009 14:38  [Source: ICIS news]

By Stefan Baumgarten

TORONTO (ICIS news)--The acquisition of NOVA Chemicals by Abu Dhabi’s International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC) is helping the Canadian petrochemicals major out of its immediate financial crisis but it remains unclear if the deal is positive for Canada, a top labour union leader said on Wednesday.

“While it’s nice to see that there is an ability for NOVA to continue to operate as a corporate entity in North America … it remains to be seen whether that’s going to be a positive development for the Canadian facilities, the Canadian workers,” Bob Huget, vice president of Canada’s Communications, Energy and Paperworkers (CEP) union told ICIS news in an interview.

“We don’t know how that [deal] is going to play out, the jury is out, we don’t know if this will impact us in a positive or negative way,” he said.  

So far, the union had only few details about the transaction, Huget added.

NOVA said on Monday that with IPIC as owner it would have the financing to expand capacities at its Canadian production hubs in Joffre, Alberta, and Sarnia, Ontario.

However, Huget said he remained concerned that Canada’s resource industry was being sold off one piece at a time to foreign companies.

“I don’t think that speaks well of the security of the Canadian energy industry at all, should it all be in foreign hands,” he said.

“It [the NOVA acquisition] takes more and more of our Canadian refining and petrochemicals decision making offshore,” he said.

Huget added that the deal was not yet final as it had to go through regulatory approval by Canadian authorities.

Canada’s industry ministry confirmed it would review the transaction to assess its net benefits under the country’s Investment Canada Act.

However, Canadian business commentators said it was not likely that the ministry’s foreign investment review panel would block the deal as NOVA, unlike oil firm Petro-Canada, may not be seen as a strategic asset for the country.

While Canada’s government sold off Toronto-listed Petro-Canada in several phases in past years, its ownership remains restricted under a special law, the Petro-Canada Public Participation Act. That law bars any single investor from controlling more than 20% of the company's voting shares.

Alberta’s provincial government had earlier ruled out helping NOVA out of its financial troubles.

For more on NOVA Chemicals visit ICIS company intelligence
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By: Stefan Baumgarten
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