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The Harper government was attempting to strike a difficult balance when it announced new restrictions on state-owned firms looking to invest in Canada, and the decision has led to mixed reviews from investment analysts.

The Conservative government announcedDec. 7 that it had approved the acquisition of Canadian oil and gas producer Nexen Inc. by Chinese state-owned CNOOC. It also approved the takeover of natural gas producer Progress Energy Resources Corp. by Malaysia’s state-owned Petronas.

But Prime Minister Stephen Harper also said that going forward, the government would find “acquisition of control of a Canadian oil sands business by a foreign state owned...

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