BHP dismisses Woodside bid talk

City A.M. Reporter
BHP Billiton played down speculation it was in talks to acquire a cornerstone stake that could be worth $10.3bn (£6.2bn) in Australia's largest oil and gas firm, Woodside Petroleum, from Royal Dutch Shell.

BHP Billiton, widely rumoured to be considering a takeover of Woodside, said in a short statement that there was no basis for the market talk, which has centred on BHP acquiring Shell's 24.3 per cent stake as a step towards a full takeover.

"BHP Billiton advises that the market is currently fully informed of all material information and is not aware of any basis for the market speculation," the miner said.

Earlier, Western Australia's state premier said he was aware that talks had been going on concerning BHP's interest in Shell's stake in Woodside but did not elaborate.

Bankers says there are continuous low-level talks between all three parties - BHP, Shell and Woodside - and doubt these have yet progressed to the stage where a deal is imminent.

Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett spoke out against any takeover of Woodside.

"Hands-off Woodside," he bluntly told an energy conference in Perth, adding that the industry would lose out if Woodside was taken over though he did not elaborate.

His comments came amid reports that Anglo-Australian miner was in talks with Royal Dutch Shell on buying its 24.3 perrcent stake in Woodside ahead of a potential takeover. The reports had earlier sent Woodside shares up more than seven per cent.