BHP Dampens Woodside Speculation

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BHP Billiton, the world's largest mining company, muted rumors about a possible $48.5 billion takeover of Australia's Woodside Petroleum, the country's second largest oil and gas producer, saying it had no knowledge of the basis for speculation it is planning to move on Woodside.

London's Sunday Times reported on Sunday that BHP (BHP) was in talks with Royal Dutch Shell, Europe's largest oil company, to acquire the 24% of Woodside Shell (RDS-A) is looking to sell. BHP would then use that stake as a launching pad for a bid for Woodside, press reports said. Shell said it is in no hurry to divest the stake and the Australian reported the company could play ''hardball'' when it comes to sell it.

''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 company said in a statement. Woodside (WOPEY) also refuted the speculation, saying that due to Australia's disclosure laws, the company would immediately have to inform the market if any firm made a takeover offer.

Woodside CEO Don Voelte said he wanted to be involved in Shell's planned sale of its remaining stake as he had a responsibility to protect other shareholders, according to the Telegraph of Australia. The U.S.-listed shares of both BHP and Woodside touched new 52-week highs.

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