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BHP Billiton Seeking Buyers For U.S. Shale Oil Assets

BHP Billiton is seeking buyers for its U.S. shale oil and gas operations after deciding that this business is non-core.

The company will retain its offshore oil operations in the Gulf of Mexico, it said in the release of its FY 2016/2017 financial results, and will also look for ways to make the assets for sale more attractive to prospective buyers.

The Australian miner reported a strong year, with underlying net profits coming in at US$6.7 billion, from US$1.2 billion a year earlier, thanks to higher iron ore and coal prices—its core business—on the back from improved demand from China.

In its commodities outlook section, the miner said it expected U.S. supply and low production prices to continue undermining OPEC’s and its partners’ efforts to prop up international prices, but the long-term outlook, BHP said, remained positive, thanks to demand from emerging economies.

BHP acquired its shale oil assets in 2011, as part of a US$20-billion shopping spree that led to criticism from some shareholders. One of these, Elliot Management Corp., argued that managerial missteps, including the shale asset acquisition, have cost the company US$40 billion in lost value, Bloomberg reports, noting that Elliott Management earlier this year initiated a public call for reforms at the miner.

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BHP’s chairman, Jac Nasser, admitted a couple of months later that “In terms of shale, if you had to turn the clock back, and if you knew what we knew today, you wouldn’t do it. The timing was way off.”

The company said its daily oil output for the latest financial year averaged 208,000 barrels of oil equivalent, down 13 percent, adding the decline reflected curbs in production activity in the shale assets coupled with natural depletion.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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