Woodside eyes plan B for Browse

Woodside Petroleum says it remains a growing company, despite shelving its most ambitious near-term growth plans in the past fortnight.

Woodside Petroleum says it remains a growing company, despite shelving its most ambitious near-term growth plans in the past fortnight.

Having ditched its $45 billion-plus onshore Browse LNG development plans due to ballooning costs, chief executive Peter Coleman said on Wednesday the oil and gas company would investigate floating liquefied natural gas as an alternative way to develop the gasfield at James Price Point, Western Australia.

Woodside also put on hold its plans to expand production at its Pluto project and returned more than $500 million to shareholders in a special dividend in the past week.

But Mr Coleman declined to respond to speculation the share price surge after the recent announcements could give Shell the impetus to sell its remaining 23 per cent stake in Woodside.

"We are in continual talks with Shell, as we are with other shareholders," Mr Coleman said after the company's annual meeting in Perth on Wednesday.

"They haven't indicated to us at all what their intentions are."

Mr Coleman said Woodside was also aiming to finalise a $US1.2 billion deal to buy a 30 per cent stake in the Leviathan gasfield in the Mediterranean Sea by June, after talks with Israeli authorities were delayed because of the country's general election.

But the setbacks in Australia remain detrimental to Woodside's immediate growth plans and chairman Michael Chaney repeated warnings from other business leaders and lobby groups that major projects in Australia would continue to be cancelled if productivity levels did not improve.

"It's basically simple economic law that says if the cost of something goes up and the productivity doesn't improve, the chance of it actually happening diminishes," Mr Chaney said.

He said industrial relations legislation under the federal government had done "a fair bit" in hampering productivity gains, echoing the sentiments of former chief executive Don Voelte, who strongly criticised union involvement in "illegal" strikes at the Pluto project in 2010.

"I think we do need to sit back and look at the legislation and say, 'How can we stay productive in this competitive global world?'," Mr Chaney said.

Shareholders overwhelmingly approved the company's 2012 remuneration report, which included Mr Coleman's total annual pay of $7.3 million, including almost $5 million in bonuses.

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