Conoco CEO: U.S. should be open to foreign energy investment |

Conoco CEO: U.S. should be open to foreign energy investment

NEW ORLEANS – The United States needs to be more welcoming of foreign companies that want to own and operate energy assets in the United States, the chief executive of ConocoPhillips said Tuesday.”We’re going to have to be more open as a nation,” ConocoPhillips CEO Jim Mulva told investors at the Howard Weil energy conference.Mulva didn’t mention the controversy surrounding the proposed purchase of U.S. port assets by a Dubai company or the proposed 2005 acquisition of Unocal Corp. by a Chinese company, both of which died in the face of pressure from Capitol Hill.Following his speech, Mulva noted that OAO Gazprom, Russia’s state gas monopoly and the world’s largest gas producer, has expressed interest in owning U.S. capacity to process liquefied natural gas. Mulva said that his comments reflect the generic need on the part of producing countries to enjoy the benefits of the entire “value chain” of energy assets, including access to the U.S. consuming market.He noted that the United States is already importing a majority of its oil from abroad.”Around the world, countries have reserves that they are developing, and they want to participate in the whole value chain,” Mulva said.Some foreign companies already own U.S. refineries, but “we’re going to have do even more of that going forward to make sure we have interdependence with respect to the producing nations,” he said.Mulva also said Houston-based ConocoPhillips is rethinking the relative merits of share repurchases versus debt reduction with an eye toward possibly speeding up repurchases.ConocoPhillips, set to close its purchase of Burlington Resources Inc. later this month, told investors late last year that it would tend to favor debt reduction and dividend increases as a use for free cash.Vail, Colorado

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