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Shell sells stake in Woodside for around $3.3B

AMSTERDAM (AP) 8 November 2010 — Royal Dutch Shell PLC said Monday it plans to sell a 10 percent stake in Woodside Petroleum Ltd., Australia’s largest independent gas and oil company, for around $3.33 billion.

Shell said Swiss bank UBS had agreed to underwrite the sale of 78.34 million Woodside shares at A$42.23 — a 7.9 percent discount to the company’s closing price Monday of A$45.86 per share. Shell will continue to hold an additional 24.27 percent of Perth-based Woodside, which it also plans eventually to sell.

Shell CEO Peter Voser said the oil giant was selling its holdings in Woodside because it prefers “direct interest in assets and joint ventures, rather than indirect stakes.”

Woodside is the operator of Australia’s North West Shelf project, which makes up about 40 percent of the country’s total gas and oil production, with indirect stakes held by Shell, BP PLC, BHP Billiton, Chevron, Mitsubishi, and Mitsui.

Shell attempted to buy Woodside in 2001, but was rebuffed by the government of then-Prime Minister John Howard on national interest grounds.

In its statement Monday, Shell cited two other recent deals to expand in Australia.

In September 2009, Shell, Exxon and Chevron agreed to build the A$43 billion Liquefied Natural Gas “Gorgon” project, also off Australia’s Northwest coast.

Shell said its 25 percent share in that project would more than double its “directly owned” LNG production in Australia.

This year Shell and PetroChina jointly purchased Australia’s Arrow Energy, a maker of coal bed methane, for $3.05 billion.

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