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Shell exiting Woodside seen opening door to China bids

ANGUS WHITLEY and JAMES PATON

THE HAGUE (Bloomberg) -- Royal Dutch Shell’s long-awaited sale of its $6.4 billion stake in Woodside Petroleum may open the door for Asian buyers to grab a slice of Australia’s second-largest oil and gas producer, or even the whole company.

Shell, which said last month it was entering “a divestment phase,” may exit its 23 percent holding in Woodside as soon as 2014 as its importance to Europe’s largest oil company fades, said Nomura Holdings Inc. While Shell may opt to sell the stock back to Woodside and institutional investors, China’s Cnooc and China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. might pursue the stake or a full takeover, Morningstar Inc. said.

Woodside, which has a market value of $28 billion, offers buyers six of Australia’s seven LNG processing plants as China- led demand for liquefied natural gas is forecast to almost double worldwide by 2030. Government opposition to a foreign takeover may have eased since Shell was blocked in 2001, said E.I.M. Capital Managers Pty. The company also is more affordable after its multiple to cash flow more than halved since 2011, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

A sale of Shell’s stake in Woodside “opens it up for somebody,” John Robertson, a Melbourne-based investor at E.I.M. Capital who owns shares in Woodside, said in a phone interview. “There’s going to be rising energy demand throughout Asia, particularly in China.”

12/16/2013

 

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