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Japan, China May Be Interested in Woodside Stake, JPMorgan Says

Japan’s Mitsubishi Corp. and Mitsui & Co. or China may be interested in buying part of Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s remaining 24 percent stake in Australia’s Woodside Petroleum Ltd., according to JPMorgan Chase & Co.

“We believe Japanese firms could be strategically interested in Woodside’s assets,” JPMorgan resources analysts, including Benjamin Wilson, said yesterday in a report. “Such a deal would represent an indirect hedge for China against imported liquefied national gas costs.”

Shell, Europe’s largest oil company, sold down 10 percent of its Woodside stake on Nov. 8 last year for $3.35 billion, saying it would keep the remaining 24 percent in its project partner for at least one year. BHP Billiton Ltd., the world’s biggest mining company, doused speculation in April it plans to buy Shell’s stake and launch a full takeover of Woodside.

BHP “appears disinterested for reasons of diversification via geography and commodity, and has pursued other acquisitions recently,” JPMorgan said. The sale of the full stake of about A$7 billion ($7.2 billion) “seems too hard in current conditions” and Shell can afford to wait to sell at a better price, the broker said.

Woodside, Australia’s second-biggest oil and gas producer, has dropped 18 percent this year. “We think potential cornerstone investors must have been approached by Shell’s advisors without success,” JPMorgan said.

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