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Woodside ‘Hopes’ Shell to Remain Shareholder Amid Takeover Talk

Woodside Petroleum Ltd., the subject of takeover speculation, would like Royal Dutch Shell Plc to remain as its biggest shareholder, the Australian company’s chief executive officer Peter Coleman said.

“I would hope Shell would stay with us and see the value in staying with Woodside,” Coleman said today in an interview in Sydney. “If they did choose to exit, that’s Shell’s decision, and I’m sure they would do that in a way that would ensure it was beneficial for everybody.”

Woodside, Australia’s second-largest oil and gas producer, has faced heightened takeover speculation since The Hague-based Shell sold a 10 percent stake last year for about $3.3 billion. BHP Billiton Ltd., the world’s largest mining company, in April doused speculation it plans to buy Shell’s remaining stake in Woodside of 24 percent and make a takeover bid.

“There’s a big advantage in us being independent, and being a large Australian company,” Coleman said. “Australia will continue to be a good brand and people see the stability of Australia. People really want to work with an Australian company, so in that regard remaining independent has a lot of value for both shareholders of Woodside and for Australia.”

Shell is “satisfied” with its stake in Woodside, Ann Pickard, Shell Australia’s chairman, said in May. “We don’t have any plans at this time for the remaining holding.”

Shell agreed to keep its remaining Woodside shares for at least one year, with limited exceptions, including a takeover offer, the company said in a November 8 statement on its website.

BHP, among Woodside’s partners in Australian LNG projects, agreed last month to buy Petrohawk Energy Corp. for about $12.1 billion in cash, its second shale gas transaction after the purchase of Chesapeake Energy Corp. assets earlier this year.

Shale gas “should be seen as an opportunity, but it shouldn’t be seen as a threat to conventional LNG” companies, said Coleman, who became Woodside CEO in May.

“Is shale gas in the mix?” Coleman said. “It’s not on our radar screen today, but we’ll look at our capabilities and we’ll determine over time whether that mix needs to change.”

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