(Adds comment from government on internal briefing note)
By Ethan Lou
CALGARY, Alberta May 4 ConocoPhillips
will lay off 300 Canadian workers after selling most local
assets to domestic crude producer Cenovus Energy Inc,
the Houston-based company said on Thursday.
ConocoPhillips in March agreed to sell oil sands and western
natural gas assets to Cenovus for C$17 billion ($12.4 billion),
making it the latest international oil major to pull back from a
region beset by high costs and low crude prices.
Norwegian oil company Statoil ASA, which late last
year agreed to sell Canadian oil sands assets to local producer
Athabasca Oil Corp, has also shed staff, a spokesman
said on Thursday, without disclosing the precise number.
The resulting layoffs will pile on to the high unemployment
rate facing oil-producing Alberta province after the two-year
crash in commodity prices. The unemployment rate was 8.4 percent
in March, slightly down from months earlier, but still at a
level not seen in more than 20 years.
The government of Alberta has been publicly firm that the
asset sales are good news as buyers have been domestic companies
eyeing expansion. But privately, in written advice to Energy
Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd days after the Cenovus deal, a senior
civil servant conceded one negative aspect in the "financial and
labour impact" of the exodus.
"Some energy jobs may be at risk because such mergers and
acquisitions yield duplications and redundancies," according to
the government briefing note, seen by Reuters under
Asked about the note, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said job
losses are a cost of consolidation, although she does "not
necessarily" anticipate more layoffs. The province is working
hard to seek export markets for its landlocked energy products
to ensure the sector's long-term stability, she said.
ConocoPhillips spokesman Rob Evans said the layoffs will be
mostly in the Canada's oil capital of Calgary, Alberta, and will
occur by mid-May. The company had more than 2,000 staff in
Canada as of late 2015.
Global energy majors have sold off more than $22.5 billion
worth of Canadian oil sands assets so far this year to domestic
Royal Dutch Shell, which in March agreed to sell
most oil sands assets for $8.5 billion to Canadian Natural
Resources, said at the time that layoffs among head
office employees and technical staff were possible.
Shell spokeswoman Tara Lemay on Thursday declined to provide
a precise figure, saying most workers will be kept on and those
laid off are eligible to apply for positions within Shell
($1 = 1.3726 Canadian dollars)
(Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Tom Brown)