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A fresh set of eyes on Woodside Petroleum's vast LNG asset base has given the market cause to pause over this stock. New chief executive Peter Coleman has been rethinking the approach to the company's future projects in an apparently more leisurely fashion but don't mistake this for a change in value of the business.

It's a bit like Peter Brock cruising around Mount Panorama with his arm resting outside the window giving the impression he was out for a Sunday drive. Not so. "Peter Perfect" was always looking at the finish line and what he needed to do to get his charge across it as quickly as possible.

Coleman has adjusted the Pluto Train 1 LNG start-up to March next year and is reconsidering the model for Pluto's expansion, including a later starting date than previously thought.

The final investment decision on the Browse LNG project will now be made about mid-2012 but even that date could slip depending on how the company decides it can extract the best value from the potential $US35 billion ($36.14 billion) project.

Attempts to repair the relationship with the East Timor government have begun as the joint venture with Shell to develop the $US11 billion Sunrise LNG project works towards a final decision next year.

The long-established North West Shelf LNG project, of which Woodside operates and owns 16.67 per cent, is the benchmark for Australian projects and remains the cornerstone of Woodside's portfolio.


Even with a more cautious approach to these new projects, Woodside remains the best way to gain exposure to Australia's rapid rise as a global LNG producer and the strong demand for the product from Asia. If all of Woodside's projects go ahead as proposed, the company will be producing about 21 million tonnes of LNG every year by 2020. Changing drivers in this premium vehicle does not alter the value on offer in Woodside.

In effect, investors are getting the existing projects at a discount and paying virtually nothing for the considerable future upside of Pluto, Browse and Sunrise. Whichever course Coleman chooses for Woodside's future, investors can buy this stock at the current pit-stop price of about $33 a share knowing its top speed is more like $50 coming down Conrod Straight.

Greg Fraser is an analyst at Fat Prophets.

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