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AAP News (Australia): Woodside sees bright future as independent producer

Published: Jun 25, 2007

PERTH, June 25 AAP – Woodside Petroleum Ltd boss Don Voelte says the oil and gas producer’s future as an independent entity is very bright, shrugging off persistent market rumours of a potential takeover.

The market has been awash with rumours that major shareholder Royal Dutch Shell might be preparing another tilt for Woodside after failing to gain control of the company in 2001. Shell’s takeover attempt in 2001 was stymied by the Australia government, which blocked the move citing national interest issues.

Mr Voelte declined to comment on the takeover speculation but said Woodside had a very positive future as an independent Australian oil and gas producer. “I think Woodside on its own is a very viable company, since the 2001 takeover offer … we’ve multiplied the share price by a factor of three,” Mr Voelte told CNBC Asia today. “I believe we are trading at upwards of $45 now, so I think we’ve proved that we’ve created a lot of value. “I personally believe there is a lot more value to create … so I think independently we can create tremendous value for our shareholders going forward.”

Woodside is Australia’s largest independent oil and gas producer and is the operator of the massive North West Shelf Venture off the coast of Western Australia. Mr Voelte noted he had a responsibility to look out for the best interests of the company’s shareholders and said the board would consider any compelling offers. “If somebody made an offer, of course, that was just so much more valuable than anything that our management team thinks we could create for our company ourselves, we’d have to say that to our board of directors,” Mr Voelte said. “But, saying that, I think one of the reasons a lot of companies are always speculated at looking at Woodside is that we have a tremendous portfolio of assets. “So I think our future independently is very bright.”

 Meanwhile, Mr Voelte said the group had received several offers from companies to participate in Woodside’s emerging $10 billion Pluto liquefied natural gas (LNG) project off the coast of WA. “We’ve had several offers from several companies to join up with Pluto,” Mr Voelte said. “It is a strategic move for Woodside, in that we own 100 per cent at this time, and I would just say that many different companies have seen the value of Pluto and have made offers. “Many people have contacted us, a lot of people have offered trades of one type or another – swaps – but we’re pretty happy at this point to go alone.” Woodside shares had dipped 43 cents to $46.27 by 1345 AEST. AAP bls/ea

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