Shell Planning Aussie Downstream Announcement

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Royal Dutch Shell, Europe's largest oil company, is scheduled to make a significant announcement later tonight regarding the future of its downstream business in Australia. The company issued a media advisory scheduling a conference call for 12:15 PM Sydney time, but the advisory was otherwise scant on details.

Shell (RDS-A) has an Australian downstream portfolio consisting of two refineries, more than 800 Shell branded service stations, a lubricants blending plant and 16 terminals, Reuters reported.

As many other integrated oil majors have done over the past year, Shell has been parting with downstream assets amid weak profit margins. Last year, the company sold downstream assets in New Zealand for $490 million. On March 29, the company sold a British refinery to India's Essar Energy for $1.3 billion. The advisory issued by Shell did not specifically mention possible asset sales in Australia.

Still, it is worth noting that Shell has been selling what it views as non-essential assets at a brisk pace in recent weeks. On April 1, Shell sold most of its Chilean downstream business for $614 million. The company also announced the sale of a Nigerian exploration block on the same day.

Shell plans to sell $5 billion in assets this year and has sold well over $30 billion over the past five years, but the company remains committed to other Australian businesses, having said in 2010 it plans to spend $50 billion there over the next decade.