Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel has now intervened several times in incoming foreign investment deals to extract public-interest conditions aimed at ensuring SA’s economy derives broader benefit from such deals. But the latest set of public-interest conditions he has negotiated with the China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation (Sinopec), which has made a $900m bid for the 75% of Chevron’s Southern African business that the US parent put up for sale, are particularly significant — and intriguing. The Sinopec bid, announced in March 2017, was a welcome show of foreign interest and confidence in one of SA’s more difficult industries, especially coming after Malaysian group Petronas failed in its attempt to sell its controlling stake in Engen to PetroSA a few years ago. The public-interest commitments that Patel and Sinopec announced last week seem to signal even greater confidence by the state-owned Chinese oil major, whose acquisition of Chevron SA, if implemented, would b...

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