By WAYNE MA and YVONNE LEE
BEIJING -- State-controlled PetroChina said three of its
senior executives are under investigation by authorities for
"severe disciplinary violations" and have resigned, as the
Chinese government appears to ratchet up efforts to root out
The disclosure by the Chinese oil giant on Tuesday came one
day after its state-owned parent, China National Petroleum
Corp., said a fourth executive was under investigation for the
While neither PetroChina nor its parent have released
specifics of the probes, the phrase "severe disciplinary
violations" is typically used by Chinese officials when
investigating cases of alleged corruption.
The announcements mark the latest investigations into
high-ranking officials at Chinese government agencies and
state-owned enterprises, amid a campaign led by President Xi
Jinping to root out official corruption. China's top leaders
have acknowledged that persistent corruption and rising public
concerns about graft pose a threat to the Communist Party's
grip on power.
The disclosures come at a pivotal time for PetroChina, which
is in the middle of pursuing two massive overseas investments
in a quest to boost overseas profits and secure energy
resources for its home country.
The company is poised to buy a stake worth billions of
dollars in one of Iraq's largest oil fields from ExxonMobil and
is a possible suitor for a $5 billion stake in a giant oil
field in Kazakhstan held by the Kazakh government. Mr. Xi is
expected to announce a number of oil and gas agreements during
his first trip to Central Asia next month as president, a
Chinese foreign ministry official said Tuesday.
While China's biggest state-owned companies can be opaque,
their operations are of increasing concerns outside the
nation's borders. Chinese companies announced $34 billion in
overseas energy deals last year, which included Cnooc Ltd.'s
record-breaking $15 billion acquisition of Canadian oil-and-gas
producer Nexen Inc., according to data provider Dealogic.
PetroChina identified the executives as Li Hualin, chairman
of PetroChina's natural-gas distribution unit Kunlun Energy Co.
and a vice president at the parent company; Ran Xinquan, a
PetroChina vice president and head of its Changqing oilfield in
northern China; and Wang Daofu, PetroChina's chief geologist.
None of the executives were available for comment.
"The company's normal business operations are not affected,"
according to a PetroChina official. "We will disclose relevant
information in a timely manner."
The official said PetroChina's board intends to nominate Wen
Qingshan, the company's chief financial officer, as the new
chairman of Kunlun. Zhang Bowen, a director at Kunlun, will
perform the duties of chairman in the interim, the official
It isn't clear how the moves might impact PetroChina's
efforts to broaden its operations in natural
gas. China is looking to increase its use of the
cleaner-burning fuel as part of an effort to wean itself off
its dependence on coal and on oil imports. PetroChina bought
control of Kunlun in 2008.
"Mr. Li was the major driving force behind [PetroChina's]
transformation into the natural
gas business in the past few years," said BOCI Securities
analyst Jeffrey Fang.
All three of the PetroChina officials have held executive
positions there for decades, according to profiles on the
company's website, which have since been taken down. Mr. Li,
who joined CNPC in 1983, had been chairman of Kunlun since 2007
and was appointed PetroChina's board secretary in 2009. Under
Mr. Li's leadership, shares of Kunlun have almost tripled, with
the company at a current market capitalization of $13
Mr. Ran was named head of PetroChina's Changqing field in
2008 and was appointed a vice president at PetroChina in 2011.
Mr. Wang was appointed chief geologist at PetroChina in
The disclosures follow the departure of Jiang Jiemin, who
left PetroChina in March after serving as chairman since 2007
to become the head of the commission that oversees China's
state-owned companies. That commission on Tuesday confirmed the
investigation into PetroChina's three executives. It didn't
return calls for comment.
On Monday, Chinese authorities said Wang Yongchun -- a CNPC
vice president and head of China's largest oil field in the
northeastern Daqing region -- was under investigation by
China's Ministry of Supervision, the country's antigraft
agency. It also cited "severe disciplinary violations." Mr.
Wang wasn't available for comment and CNPC declined to
On Tuesday a CNPC spokesman said Mr. Wang had been replaced
as head of the Daqing field by Liu Hongbin, who has served as
one of six vice presidents of CNPC since July.
Last week, China Mobile Ltd. said a provincial head and
former senior executive was being investigated by the Chinese
government for the same reason cited for the four Chinese oil
executives. China Mobile didn't elaborate on what violations
are being investigated. The former China Mobile executive
wasn't available to comment.
Dow Jones Newswires