China Petrochemical, Asia's largest oil refiner which is also called Sinopec, has announced it will buy a 33% stake in US-based Apache Corporation's Egyptian oil and gas unit.

Sinopec will pay $3.1bn (£2bn, 2.3bn) in cash to have control over one-third of Apache's business in Egypt, where the US firm's operations produced an average 100,000 barrels of oil and 354m cubic feet of natural gas per day in 2012.

It is state-owned Sinopec's first foray into the Egyptian oil and gas industry as the Asian giant seeks to expand its international business.

Apache's stake sale is part of its plan to rebalance its portfolio by selling assets. The company needs to pay down its debt to maintain its credit ratings. It plans to use the proceeds to fund future capital expenditure including international projects.

"We are taking meaningful steps to rebalance our portfolio to better deliver the full potential of our deep North America onshore resource inventory," said G. Steven Farris, chairman and chief executive of Apache.

Farris added that Sinopec is an "ideal partner" for Apache and that he is looking forward to "the growth and value generation ahead for both companies through the expansion of our collaboration to other projects".

"Their technical expertise complements our 20 years of experience operating in Egypt and creates an alliance that will continue to explore and deliver the tremendous hydrocarbon resources in the Western Desert," he said.

Oil and Energy Sector Deals

In July, Apache announced it would sell its shallow-water unit in the Gulf of Mexico to private-equity firm Fieldwood Energy for $3.75bn.

China, which is the second largest consumer of oil behind the US, has been planning to expand its international business through various acquisitions.

Sinopec agreed in June to buy a 10% stake of US's Marathon's Angolan oil and gas field.

The refiner also agreed a $2.2bn deal with another US-based natural gas and oil producer, Devon Energy.

Another Chinese big player PetroChina was reportedly planning to expand its presence in Australia in acquisitions worth $3.7bn to meet the country's rapidly growing energy demand.

In December 2012, PetroChina agreed to enter into a joint venture deal with Canadian energy company Encana to operate a natural gas project in Alberta.