* Canada expects Indian companies will make oil sands deals
* Chinese bid for oil producer Nexen makes waves in Canada
By David Ljunggren
OTTAWA, Oct 7 (Reuters) - Indian companies are lagging
behind when it comes to investing in Canada's giant oil sands
but could well start making deals within the next five years,
Canadian Energy Minister Joe Oliver says.
Oliver, speaking to Reuters before a visit to Delhi and
Mumbai, said Canadian energy industry needs C$650 billion ($663
billion) in investment over the next decade. Ottawa concedes
much of it will have to come from abroad.
To some political consternation in Canada, China is rapidly
buying up assets in the tar sands of northern Alberta, one of
the world's biggest crude oil deposits. But India - the world's
fourth largest oil importer - has yet to conclude a deal.
"I think they realize ... they are certainly behind others,
and they acknowledge that," Oliver said.
"They are looking to Canada now with increasing interest. I
can't predict what precisely they'll do, but I'd certainly be
surprised that if in five years from now the picture didn't look
quite a bit different."
Last month sources said a trio of state-run Indian oil
companies had bid $5 billion for stakes in Canadian oil sands
holdings owned by ConocoPhillips.
The bid from the group, which comprises producers Oil and
Natural Gas Corp and Oil India Ltd with
refiner and retailer Indian Oil Corp, is the first by
Indian energy companies for assets in Canada.
Canada is now deciding whether to approve a $15.1 billion
bid by Chinese state-owned CNOOC Ltd for oil producer
Nexen Inc, which is active in the oil sands.
Some in Canada's governing Conservative Party are uneasy
about allowing a Chinese state-owned enterprise to buy such
Indian state companies are partly owned by an elected
government in what is the world's most populous democracy, and
this could help reduce Canadian hesitation about future deals.
Oliver said he would try to boost Canadian energy exports to
India. The government, keen to reduce its export reliance on the
United States, is already trying to boost oil sales to China.
Canada exported C$1.4 billion ($1.43 billion) worth of
natural resources to India last year - including just C$4.1
million in energy products - and Oliver said he sees great
potential for more trade.
"There is tremendous complimentarity between our two
countries. We have these vast resources - oil, gas, minerals,
metals and forestry - and India is growing ... there are immense
opportunities," he said.
Oliver - noting that Saudi Arabia and Iran together supply
29 percent of India's oil - said major importers of crude
generally want to diversify their sources of supply to include
what he called reliable and stable countries.
But any talk of boosting Canadian oil exports to India will
depend in part on how soon new pipelines are built from the
Alberta oil sands to ports on the Pacific Coast.
Opposition to one of the proposed pipelines, Enbridge Inc's
Northern Gateway project, is steadily growing and there
are doubts as to whether it will ever be built.