Australia's Woodside Petroleum Ltd. sees oil and gas markets improving later this year after a dismal first-half hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, and is keenly looking to snap up cheap assets, its boss said Aug. 13.

Woodside reported a better-than-feared 28% slide in first-half adjusted profit but cut its dividend slightly more than expected, after slashing spending and deferring major gas projects.

"We're optimistic that the worst of the supply and demand shocks are behind us," Woodside CEO Peter Coleman told analysts.

Australia's top independent gas producer is ideally looking to acquire stakes close to its assets or offering it control of assets nearing or in production, Coleman said.

"We're clearly scanning the landscape very closely looking for opportunities," he said on a conference call.

Coleman said in June Woodside is eyeing Chevron Corp.'s sale of its one-sixth stake in the North West Shelf LNG project, operated and co-owned by Woodside.

Indicative bids are due by the end of this year, he said.

The company will also decide in the next 10 days whether to exercise its right to match a $400 million offer by Russia's Lukoil for Cairn Energy's 40% stake in the Rufisque, Sangomar and Sangomar Deep (RSSD) area off Senegal, he said.


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Woodside is seeking legal advice on whether Lukoil's participation in the $4.2 billion Sangomar oil project would expose the partners to any U.S. sanctions against Russia, Coleman told Reuters.

Woodside's underlying net profit after tax fell to $303 million for the six months ended June 30 from $419 million a year earlier.

Its interim dividend of 26 cents per share, down from 36 cents, fell short of analysts' consensus of 28 cents, according to Visible Alpha.

"I would rate the external conditions created this year by the COVID-19 pandemic and oversupply in global oil and gas markets as the most difficult I've seen in nearly four decades in the industry," Coleman said.