12/10/2012 04:38 EST | Updated 02/09/2013 05:12 EST

Former Nexen CEO says state-owned companies must be held to commitments

CALGARY - The former CEO of Nexen Inc. says he's all for foreign investment in the oilpatch, but there must be penalties for buyers who don't meet their commitments.

"The issue for me is not 'should be working with these people?' The issue for me is 'if they don't meet their commitments, what are the consequences?'" Charlie Fischer said in an interview on the sidelines of a Canadian Council of Chief Executives conference on Monday.

"There have to be penalties when people don't meet commitments, whether that's Asian companies or whether those are North American or European companies.

"The issue is to have an open and active market, but to have consequences when the behaviours aren't consistent with what we expected, or they don't meet their promises."

Fischer was at the helm of Nexen from 2001 until 2008 and has remained a large shareholder since he retired.

As an investor, Fischer said it's "absolutely" good news Ottawa is allowing Chinese state-owned company CNOOC Ltd. to buy Nexen for $15.1 billion.

Among other things, CNOOC has said it plans to keep all of Nexen's current employees and management and to base its North and Central American operations — including $8 billion of its current assets — out of Calgary.

Fischer adds Nexen wasn't approached by the CNOOC Ltd. for a takeover while he was in charge.

Nexen had been a perennial subject of takeover speculation in the years leading up to its announcement in July that it had agreed to be sold to CNOOC, a minority partner in a Nexen-operated oilsands project.

"We had a good run when I was there and we were a global investor. But something had to happen and it doesn't concern me at all that they're looking at a transaction with the Chinese," he said.

"I think from a Canadian perspective we have to work with the Chinese. They're going to be the largest economy in the world."