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LONDON, Jan 18 (Reuters) - ChemChina has agreed to buy a stake in Swiss energy trader Mercuria, the companies said on Monday, cementing its role as one of China's most acquisitive firms as its expands in new areas and as Beijing opens its oil markets for more imports.
The deal to sell 12 percent of its business will allow Mercuria to foster ties with the world's second-largest oil market a year after completing a deal to integrate the trading desk of Wall Street bank JPMorgan to strengthen its position in the United States.
"An investment by ChemChina in our company reaffirms Mercuria's business model as well as growth potential," Mercuria Chief Executive Marco Dunand said. "ChemChina has important expertise and global reach. Combined with Mercuria's experience, this will fuel and diversify our natural growth."
ChemChina's chairman, Ren Jianxin, said: "Through the investment in Mercuria Energy Trading, which has grown rapidly over the last decade, ChemChina will expand further into the energy sector."
Mercuria has growth opportunities ahead in China and around the world, the chairman added.
The Chinese company has been on a buying spree since the middle of the last decade, snapping up firms from countries ranging from Israel to France and Germany to produce and trade pesticides, vitamins, organic silicon, rubber and plastics.
It operates refineries in China and has been expanding its oil-trading operations to facilitate purchases from abroad following regulatory changes liberalising imports of crude and products into the country.
ChemChina is the country's largest chemical group and the ninth largest in the world, according to its website.
The owner of Italian tyre maker Pirelli, ChemChina was seeking to buy Swiss agrichemical firm Syngenta for as much as $44 billion in December.
ChemChina is the largest operator of small refineries in China and was over the past year granted one of the largest crude import quotas into the country for the first time. (Reporting by Dmitry Zhdannikov; Editing by David Goodman and Dale Hudson)