Could Woodside be on the market again? In 2001, Treasurer Peter Costello used the national interest provisions of the foreign investment act to block the takeover of Woodside Petroleum by global oil major Royal Dutch Shell as did Joe Hockey recently when he blocked the GrainCorp takeover after another split on the FIRB. Since GrainCorp, the government has been confronted with commercial decisions about Holden, Qantas, Yancoal and possibly Toyota. It is still finding its way but the emphasis is on unsubsided investment. Costello said he did not object to foreign ownership in Australia's LNG projects but did not want an entity with competing interests taking decisions about Australia's resources. Hockey effectively watered down that view when he released Yancoal from its undertaking to cut back its ownership of coal assets in Australia. Hockey's rationale was that investment was needed and conditions had changed.
John Robertson is Chief Investment Strategist for PortfolioDirect a provider of resource sector investment stock ratings and portfolio strategies for mining and oil and gas investors. He has worked as a policy economist, corporate business...
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