Woodside shareholders back BHP oil merger

Woodside shareholders have backed the company's merger with BHP's petroleum arm. -PR Handout Image

Woodside shareholders have overwhelmingly approved the company's $41 billion merger with BHP's petroleum business, which will now take place in less than a fortnight.

Some 98.6 per cent of shareholders approved the blockbuster deal, which will transform Woodside from a company mostly focused on LNG production off the coast of WA to a truly global player with assets on four continents.

Shareholders gathered for Woodside's annual general meeting in Perth on Thursday backed a corporate name change, from Woodside Petroleum Ltd to Woodside Energy Group Ltd.

The new Woodside will be among the top 10 independent oil companies worldwide, not counting the seven vertically integrated super majors. With a market cap of around $63 billion, it will also edge ahead of Fortescue Metals as the ASX's eighth most valuable company.

With Woodside shareholder approval the final requirement for the merger to go ahead, the transaction will now close on June 1.

Woodside chief executive Meg O'Neill told AAP earlier this week the merger would give Woodside "the scale, the geographic and product diversity and the balance sheet strength to supply energy that the world needs today and to thrive through the energy transition".

BHP shareholders, whose approval wasn't required for the deal, receive one Woodside share for every 5.5340 BHP shares they own, collectively giving them a 48 per cent stake in the new company.

Woodside will retain its primary listing on the ASX and will also list on the London and New York stock exchanges.

Shareholders spent relatively little time debating the mega-merger, with more voicing feedback on how Woodside's $16.5 billion Scarborough liquefied natural gas project off northwest WA would impact Aboriginal rock art and global climate change targets.

"I don't think the views of the protesters here today outside this meeting and ours are that different," chairman Richard Goyder told investors, referring to activists who set off flares to highlight the world is in a climate emergency.

"We all want the same thing, a lower-carbon world. The question is how to do that."

Goyder said corporate leadership was glad shareholders backed the merger and corporate remuneration, but he realised executives had more work to do on climate change after just 54 per cent backed its climate report.

Greenpeace Australia Pacific and the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility both condemned Woodside after the meeting for what they described as disregarding the expertise of bodies such as the United Nations on climate change. 

"Woodside has made it very clear to investors that it has no real intention of shifting its business model away from fossil fuels," said Harriet Kater, climate lead Australia with the ACCR. 

BHP's oil and gas assets going to Woodside include wells off the coast of Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coasts of WA and Victoria. 

They also include offshore assets east of Trinidad and exploration rights in Barbados, Canada, Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, the Gulf of Mexico and Egypt.

The new Woodside would produce an estimated 207 million barrels of oil equivalent this year, compared to the 91.1 million barrels Woodside produced in 2021.

Woodside says the merger will result in more than $US400 million in synergies each year from optimised corporate processes and systems, as well as a reduction in its gearing from 22 per cent to 8 per cent.