* M&A opportunities look cheaper than 2 years ago
* Woodside targets growth opportunities worth $5 bln
* Net profit rises to $1.1 bln, meets forecasts
(Adds CEO, analyst comments)
By Sonali Paul
MELBOURNE, Aug 20 Woodside Petroleum Ltd
, armed with $4.3 billion to spend to fill a gap in its
growth prospects, sees the chance of snaring an acquisition
improving as rivals step up asset sales and competing bidders
Australia's top oil and gas producer, which reported a
record half-year profit on Wednesday, is cashed up after
shareholders rejected a $2.68 billion plan to buy back and
cancel stock held by its top shareholder, Royal Dutch Shell
Woodside has resisted making acquisitions over the past two
years as pricetags were too high, but Chief Executive Peter
Coleman said there were now attractive opportunities as
companies from Shell to the likes of Apache Corp offload
"We do have a view that M&A opportunities are coming onto
the market. They are better priced than what they were two years
ago," Coleman told analysts and reporters on a conference call.
At the same time, competitive bidding is likely to ease,
Coleman said, as state-owned oil companies like China's CNOOC
and PetroChina, are no longer chasing deals
after making expensive acquisitions over the past few years.
Woodside has said it is looking for growth prospects worth
around $5 billion.
Among other opportunities, he said Woodside was looking at
assets that Apache wants to sell, which include LNG stakes in
Australia and Canada.
Woodside is under pressure to make an acquisition to spur
growth ahead of the development of its next big project, most
likely the Browse floating LNG project, after scrapping a deal
to buy a 25 percent stake in Israel's massive Leviathan gas
field earlier this year.
"They would be running the ruler intently over Canadian
opportunities," said Andrew Williams, an analyst at RBC Capital
Markets in Melbourne, adding those would fit with Woodside's
plan to develop an LNG export plant in British Columbia.
Woodside delivered a 27 percent jump in net profit to $1.11
billion for the six months to June, in line with market
Revenue rose 24 percent to a record $3.6 billion, thanks to
higher volumes and prices at its Pluto LNG project, while
production resumed at its Vincent field.
The company also reaffirmed its recently raised raised
production target of 89 to 94 million barrels of oil equivalent
(mmboe) for calender 2014.
Woodside announced an interim dividend of 111 cents a share,
slightly higher than some analysts' forecasts, while it held
back on returning extra capital to shareholders as it plans to
canvas investors on what form they would favour.
Its shares rose to a three-year high of A$43.49 after the
result and last traded up 0.6 percent at A$43.32.
(Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Richard Pullin)