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Woodside May Pay Special Dividend on Pluto Revenue, UBS Says

Woodside Petroleum Ltd., Australia’s second-largest oil and gas company, may be able to pay a special dividend because of rising revenue from its A$15 billion ($15.9 billion) Pluto liquefied natural gas project, UBS AG said.

A dividend payment this year or in 2013 depends on the Perth-based company deferring spending on its proposed Pluto expansion and the Browse and Sunrise LNG projects, Gordon Ramsay, a UBS analyst in Melbourne, said yesterday in a report.

The company last month boosted its 2012 output forecast as much as 14 percent following the start of Pluto in April. The LNG development operated at 80 percent of capacity in its first two months, compared with Woodside’s forecast of 36 percent, the company said July 19. It’s projected to pay a dividend of $1.22 a share in 2012 and $1.45 a share in 2013, according to UBS.

“This may be conservative if Pluto LNG’s operational performance continues to be strong,” Ramsay wrote.

While Woodside is committed to its growth plans, which include expanding Pluto, the oil and gas producer will be able to return cash to shareholders “to the extent that growth is delayed, or our investment criteria is not met,” Chief Financial Officer Lawrie Tremaine told investors in May.

Laura Lunt, a spokeswoman for Woodside in Perth, declined in an e-mail to comment on the report.

Woodside shares rose 0.7 percent to A$34.43 at the close in Sydney, while the benchmark index fell 0.1 percent.

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