Shell's divestment streak continues, shedding Woodside shares

Dutch supermajor completed the sale of billions of dollars in assets one day before reporting a huge profit for the third quarter.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |  Nov. 13, 2017 at 5:46 AM
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Nov. 13 (UPI) -- Picking up from where it left off before stating it earnings, Royal Dutch Shell said it was taking $1.7 billion for the sale of a stake in Australia's Woodside.

Shell said early Monday it sold off 64 percent of its shares in Woodside Petroleum, leaving its Australian subsidiary with a 4.8 percent interest in the liquefied natural gas player.

"This sale is another step towards the completion of our three-year $30 billion divestment program, which is an important part of our strategy to reshape Shell, to deliver a world class investment case, and to strengthen our financial framework," Shell's Chief Financial Officer Jessica Uhl said in a statement.

For $628 million, Shell on Nov. 1 completed the sale of its entire Gabonese oil and gas interests to a company controlled by The Carlyle Group. The transaction includes the sale of all of Shell's onshore oil and gas interests, which includes nine total fields, and the associated infrastructure, including pipelines and export terminals.

On the same day, the Dutch supermajor sold North Sea holdings to Chrysaor for a total of up to $3.8 billion. The sale includes Shell's 21.7 percent interest in the legacy Buzzard field and the 10 percent stake in the Schiehallion field.

Shell continues to scale down and reconfigure its portfolio after merging with British energy company BG Group in 2015. BG Group had about 15 percent of the market for liquefied natural gas controlled and, though leaving Woodside, the Dutch company continues to hold a significant LNG market share in Australia, including both in the mega Gorgon LNG project and the Prelude floating LNG facility, in which it holds an operating interest.

In an annual report this year, Shell said LNG demand is on pace to grow at twice the rate of conventional gas. The super-cooled LNG offers diverse options for delivery compared with piped gas, which is vulnerable to geopolitical risk.

Shell reported net profit of $4.1 billion came from all of its business segments during the third quarter, though earnings came mainly from refining, higher production from new fields and improved market conditions.

Uhl said Monday the sale of its stake in Woodside would go to reduce the company's debt load. Woodside had no public comment on the divestment. It reported total operating revenue to Sept. 30 was $2.8 billion, down 4 percent from the same period last year.

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