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Shell sells Wheatstone stake
The West Australian

Royal Dutch Shell has sold its stake in the Chevron-operated Wheatstone LNG project for $US1.13 billion ($1.28 billion), days after shocking global markets by issuing a massive profit downgrade.

Kuwait's Kufpec has picked up Shell's 6.4 per cent Wheatstone stake in a move that now makes the state-owned oil and gas major the second-biggest equity holder in Wheatstone behind operator Chevron.

After the close of the deal, Kufpec will hold 13.4 per cent of Wheatstone, just ahead of Apache's 13 per cent stake.

While the sale was well-flagged - Shell is believed to have been seeking a buyer since at least early last year, due to its small holding in Wheatstone and the fact Shell prefers to operate the projects it is involved in - it comes on the heels of poor quarterly results announced last week that led to market speculation of an assets fire sale.

Shell said on Friday it expected fourth-quarter earnings to come in at $US2.2 billion, down from $US7.3 billion in the fourth quarter of 2012.

Full-year earnings were expected to fall almost 40 per cent, sparking renewed talk the company would seek to divest up to $US15 billion of assets over the next two years.

The sale of the Wheatstone stake will cool speculation of an asset fire sale. Shell chief executive Ben van Beurden was yesterday careful to hose down any talk Shell was under pressure to exit its other Australian projects.

"Shell will remain a major player in Australia's energy industry," he said.

"However, we are refocusing our investment to where we can add the most value with Shell's capital and technology.

"We are making hard choices in our worldwide portfolio to improve Shell's capital efficiency."