Woodside seeks to grow LNG business with new acquisition deal following Santos talks

Christine Burke, Bloomberg February 13, 2024

(Bloomberg) – Woodside Energy Group Ltd. remains open to acquisitions following an attempt to merge with Santos Ltd., as it looks to grow the liquefied natural gas (LNG) business. 

“We will keep the door open to a variety of ways to potentially grow our LNG business,” Chief Executive Officer Meg O’Neill said in an interview at a conference in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. That includes both buying assets and expansion of existing projects, while the company is open to considering the “right” deals, she said.

Investors have been looking for clues on Woodside’s next move after talks to create a A$86 billion ($56 billion) company with Santos ended. Santos’s portfolio would have made Woodside one of the biggest LNG producers in the Asia-Pacific, but executives warned any deal would need to reflect low premiums in recent oil and gas transactions. There are currently no plans to revive those talks, O’Neill said.

Woodside’s focus for deals remains on Australia and North America, she said. In the U.S., the company is in talks to buy LNG from several export terminals and has been interested in taking a stake in Energy Transfer LP’s Lake Charles project in Louisiana, people familiar with the plans have said. O’Neill declined to comment on specific targets but confirmed Woodside is in discussions with a number of LNG developers in America.

The company is interested in the U.S. even after President Joe Biden’s recent decision to pause approvals for new LNG export projects. The government’s review of proposed developments will eventually pave the way for more U.S. LNG to reach the global market, O’Neill said. Even so, she said the move is for now causing “grave concern” and is “highly detrimental to investment.”

“I’m not sure all of the ripples have been felt,” she said.

O’Neill, who this week is visiting Saudi Arabia for the first time, is also exploring the possibility for future partnerships in the Middle East, including with Aramco. The world’s biggest oil exporter is diversifying into natural gas, including LNG, and other related energy sectors such as chemicals.

“At this point we’re really just building relationships and getting to know one another,” she said. “We’re certainly not averse to the Middle East.”

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