China May Raise Fuel Prices in 2012 for Efficiency, Mirae Says

China may raise fuel prices next year to spur more efficient use, while state companies will make overseas acquisitions to meet demand in the world’s largest energy consumer, according to Mirae Asset Securities Ltd.

The nation may increase natural-gas prices by 15 percent in the second quarter after the spring planting season, Gordon Kwan, head of energy research at Mirae in Hong Kong, said in a report e-mailed today. China may also raise retail gasoline and diesel prices 15 percent in five separate increases to about $4.1 a gallon, said Kwan, who was the most-accurate forecaster of New York oil prices of 26 analysts ranked by Bloomberg in the eight quarters ended June 30.

China aims to cut its energy use per unit of gross domestic product by 16 percent by 2015 from five years earlier, according to a plan issued by the State Council on Sept. 8. This year’s target of a 3.5 percent reduction may be missed, China News reported Dec. 9, citing Zhao Jiarong, deputy secretary of the National Development and Reform Commission.

“China must bite the bullet because gas prices have to increase to encourage fuel conservation while motivating domestic producers to expedite their natural-gas development plans over conventional crude oil projects,” Kwan said. At $4.1 a gallon for gasoline and diesel, “Fuel demand growth should start to slow more meaningfully and awareness of the need for fuel conservation will become more acute,” he said.

LNG Imports

The nation’s liquefied natural gas imports will rise 30 percent to a record in 2012 from about 13 million tons this year to meet demand for electricity generation, according to the report. Mirae expects China to sign more long-term deals with Australia, Indonesia, Qatar and Malaysia to buy natural gas.

Cnooc Ltd. may acquire more shale oil and gas assets in North America, driven by attractive valuations and desire to grow long-term production and reserves, Mirae said. Chinese companies may also buy more overseas uranium miners to secure reserves as nuclear power is “vital” to China’s long-term energy security, according to the report.

Brent crude will average $115 a barrel in 2012, Kwan also forecast. The European benchmark contract will trade from $100 to $130 a barrel for most of the year and Mirae “cannot rule out a potential short-term price spike toward US$200/bbl if economic sanctions against Iran lead to military actions around the Persian Gulf,” he said.

West Texas Intermediate oil will average $105 a barrel, according to the report.

— With assistance by Jacob Adelman, and Jing Yang

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