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Cnooc Studies History to Plot Nexen Strategy

Executives at China’s state-controlled oil producer Cnooc Ltd., plotting their nation’s largest foreign takeover, have been studying history for lessons from two dramatic failed mergers, said people with knowledge of the effort.

Cnooc executives and their advisers, who announced a planned $15.1 billion takeover of Canada’s Nexen Inc. yesterday, are seeking to avoid the missteps that doomed BHP Billiton Ltd.’s $40 billion offer for Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc. in 2010 and Cnooc’s $19 billion bid for California-based Unocal Corp. in 2005. Both collapsed amid opposition from the targets’ executives as well as government leaders.