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Bloomberg: Woodside Fourth-Quarter Sales Rise 7% as Prices Climb (Update3)

By Angela Macdonald-Smith

 Jan. 17 (Bloomberg) — Woodside Petroleum Ltd., Australia’s second-largest oil and gas producer, said fourth-quarter sales rose 7 percent as prices climbed and the Stybarrow field started crude output.

Sales rose to A$1.17 billion ($1 billion) in the three months ended Dec. 31, from A$1.1 billion a year earlier, the Perth-based company said in a statement today. Production fell 5 percent to 18 million barrels of oil and gas.

Woodside, 34 percent owned by Royal Dutch Shell Plc, in November cut its output forecast for 2008 by as much as 20 percent because of slower start-ups of new projects and the sale of fields in Mauritania. Output in 2007 was 70.6 million barrels, within a reduced forecast given in October.

“The fourth quarter was very much in line with our expectations overall, on production, revenue and sales volumes,” said Mark Greenwood, an energy analyst at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in Sydney.

A A$230 million loss reported by Woodside today on the sale of its Mauritanian assets is higher than the company forecast in November and will reduce earnings forecasts, while exploration expenses were higher than expected, he said.

Woodside fell 43 cents, or 0.9 percent, to A$48.88 on the Australian Stock Exchange, matching the drop in the exchange’s benchmark energy index.

`Higher-Value Products’

The gain in sales “was achieved through increased production of higher-value products and stronger commodity prices, which outweighed an overall decrease in production due to natural field decline and ongoing repairs” at the Corallina and Mutineer-Exeter fields off northwest Australia, Woodside said in the statement.

The company maintained its 2008 output forecast at between 80 million and 86 million barrels of oil equivalent. Production will be boosted by a full-year of output from the Stybarrow field off northwestern Australia, the ramp-up of the Otway gas project off the southeast coast and the start-up of the Neptune, Vincent, Angel projects as well as the expansion of the North West Shelf venture’s liquefied natural gas production, Woodside said.

The start-up in November of the 50 percent-owned Stybarrow field, operated by BHP Billiton Ltd., boosted fourth-quarter revenue by about A$75 million, helping compensate for a decline in output from the Laminaria-Corallina field due to the shutdown of part of the venture due to a gas leak.

Legendre, Chinguetti

Total output still declined on the sale of the Legendre field in Australia and the Chinguetti field in Mauritania, and lower output from the Mutineer-Exeter field in Australia and from gas and condensates fields in the Gulf of Mexico.

Production at the Enfield field off Western Australia rose in the quarter, yet has since declined to due to the shutdown of a well, Woodside said. The field, partly owned by Mitsui & Co., is producing about 30,000 barrels a day, down from an average 50,241 in the fourth quarter.

The price of Tapis crude oil, an Asian benchmark, averaged $94.74 in the quarter, up from $62.59 a year earlier, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The Australian dollar was 15 percent higher in the quarter, reducing the effect of the price rise. Woodside got an average of A$101.37 a barrel for its Australian oil output in the quarter, up from A$90.81 in the third quarter, said Roger Martin, a spokesman.

The average LNG sales price rose in the quarter after the Woodside-operated North West Shelf venture agreed with customers on higher provisional prices, Woodside said. Those provisional rates will be used while negotiations take place on revised prices due to an increase in crude-oil beyond the range specified in LNG sales contracts, it said.

Woodside’s full-year sales gained 5 percent to A$4 billion, as output climbed 4 percent.

To contact the reporter on this story: Angela Macdonald-Smith in Sydney at [email protected] .

Last Updated: January 17, 2008 02:38 EST

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