A $3.5bn Royal retreat
Shell offloads last Woodside stake
ROYAL Dutch Shell has sold out of Woodside Petroleum, ending a presence of more than 30 years on the register of Australia’s biggest stand-alone oil and gas producer.
Shares in Woodside slumped more than 3 per cent yesterday after the AngloDutch energy titan confirmed it had sold its final 13.3 per cent stake for $3.5 billion.
Shell moved to sell off 8.5 per cent of its Woodside stake late on Monday but decided to offload its entire holding amid stronger-than-expected demand from institutional investors.
It sold out at $31.10 a share — a 3.5 per cent discount to Monday’s closing price.
Woodside chief Peter Coleman said the company would continue to have a close working relationship with Shell, noting the global energy heavyweight remained a partner in its North West Shelf and Browse projects off the coast of Western Australia.
The duo are also partners at the stalled Sunrise development in the Timor Sea.
“Woodside’s strong and longstanding relationship with Shell will continue following today’s divestment,” Mr Coleman said.
“Woodside will maintain a close working relationship with Shell — as a joint venture partner and customer of Shell technology — and we recognise that Shell will always be part of our history.”
The sale is the latest undertaken by Shell, which launched a $US30 billion asset sales program following its acquisition of rival British gas and oil company BG Group in 2015.
Shell partnered with Woodside in the early 1960s to develop the North West Shelf oil and gas venture, providing its Australian partner with the technical skills needed to develop one of the nation’s biggest ever resource projects.
It has been looking to sell out of Woodside for a number of years, classifying the stake as “available for sale” in its 2016 accounts.
Its decision to pull the trigger on its latest and final sale comes after Woodside’s share price climbed more than 11 per cent over the past three months.
“This sale is another step towards the completion of our three-year, $US30 billion divestment program,” Shell chief financial officer Jessica Uhl said.
That scheme was “an important part of our strategy to reshape Shell, to deliver a world-class investment case and to strengthen our financial framework”, Ms Uhl said. “Proceeds from the sale will contribute to reducing our net debt.”
Shell has twice sought to take over Woodside, teaming with BHP to make its first play in the mid-1980s.
It launched a second bid to take over Woodside in 2000 with the $10 billion offer timed to take advantage of an Aussie dollar that was then trading around the US50c mark.
Former federal treasurer Peter Costello rejected the offer amid concerns the North West Shelf assets would be starved of attention if they became part of Shell’s vast global portfolio.
Woodside ran the nation’s only liquefied natural gas plant at the time.
Shell sold another 10 per cent in late 2010, netting it $3.3 billion.
It cut its stake by another 9.5 per cent in mid-2014 in a sale that ended its ability to nominate directors to the Woodside board.
Shell planned to cut its stake further but a proposed selective buyback endorsed by the Woodside board was rejected by shareholders.
Shares in Woodside fell by $1.04, or 3.2 per cent, to $31.20 yesterday.