07/09/2010 - 10:42

Shell chief dismisses Woodside talk

07/09/2010 - 10:42

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Shell Australia chair Ann Pickard has dismissed recurring media and analyst speculation the energy giant was considering a renewed tilt at 34 per cent owned rival Woodside Petroleum, potentially in partnership with BHP Billiton.

Shell Australia chair Ann Pickard has dismissed recurring media and analyst speculation the energy giant was considering a renewed tilt at 34 per cent owned rival Woodside Petroleum, potentially in partnership with BHP Billiton.

Speaking at an American Chamber of Commerce breakfast in Perth this morning, Ms Pickard noted that Shell had a "small piece of Woodside", but joked there were no plans to revisit a takeover bid.

"No, we are not getting ready to buy it again," she quipped, referring to Shell's failed takeover bid in 2001.

Ms Pickard later declined to provide further clarification, saying only "we don't comment on market speculation".

Rumours that Shell would revisit a bid for Woodside, one of its best performing investments, have re-emerged regularly since its bid was blocked by the federal government on national interest grounds in 2001.

Meanwhile, Ms Pickard reaffirmed that the company expected to make a financial investment decision on its $US5 billion Prelude floating LNG venture in the Browse Basin off Broome in the first half of next year, and that the company continued to support Woodside's efforts to develop the nearby $30 billion Browse LNG project in which Shell also has a small direct interest.

Though Woodside remains confident of meeting a WA government-set target for a financial investment decision in 2012, the Browse project faces fresh uncertainty following WA premier Colin Barnett's decision to compulsorily acquire land at James Price Point to use as an onshore processing hub, which threatens to destroy any remaining support for the venture from key traditional owner groups and the Kimberley Land Council. The site also faces extreme opposition from conservation groups and Kimberley tourism operators.

The premier's decision follows a long-running stand-off between rival indigenous groups over the use of the site which prevented a formal indigenous land use agreement being signed by the government's deadline.

An agreement would have formalised a $1.5 billion shared benefits package negotiated by the KLC on behalf of traditional owners last yea, but which was rejected by a breakaway group opposed to the use of James Price Point as a gas hub.

Ms Pickard referred all questions about the matter to Woodside, as operator of the venture, but noted that the compulsory acquisition process would also involve significant consultation with all key stakeholder groups.

 

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