BHP to sell interest in Browse to PetroChina for $1.63 bn
The $30 billion Browse project has been plagued by controversy over its proposed location at James Price Point on the northwestern coast of Australia, which has been opposed by some project partners, environmentalists and Aboriginal landowners.
BHP's exit also comes against the backdrop of soaring costs for the $170 billion worth of LNG export projects under construction in Australia, thanks to labor shortages, logistics challenges and the strength of the Australian dollar.
"This is an excellent opportunity for both companies," BHP's petroleum division chief Michael Yeager said in a statement.
"PetroChina has acquired an interest in a world class gas resource and BHP Billiton has exited a non-strategic asset.
" BHP said the remaining joint venture partners in the Browse project - operator Woodside Petroleum, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, BP, Japan's Mitsui & Co and Mitsubishi Corp - have the right to match the offer from PetroChina.
Barring that eventuality, BHP expects the deal to close in the first half of next year, pending regulatory approvals.
State-controlled PetroChina, the country's dominant oil and gas producer, has earmarked close to $16 billion for overseas investment this year as it aims to have half its production outside China within 8 years.
The deal will require approval from Australia's Foreign Investment Review Board, given PetroChina is state-owned.
Australia's foreign investment rules are generally seen as
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