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BHP Billiton sells Australia gas stake to PetroChina in US$1.6 billion deal

BEIJING -- BHP Billiton Ltd. said Wednesday it has agreed to sell its stake in a proposed Australian gas project to Chinese government-owned energy producer PetroChina for US$1.6 billion.

PetroChina is Asia's biggest oil producer by volume and, along with other Chinese energy companies, has been acquiring assets abroad to profit from increased Chinese demand for imported oil and gas.

BHP said the sale covers its 8.33-percent interest in the East Browse Joint Venture and 20 percent interest in the West Browse Joint Venture, located off Australia's west coast. The Australian mining giant said other partners in the Browse joint venture have the right to match the offer and the deal still requires regulatory approval.

“PetroChina has acquired an interest in a world class gas resource and BHP Billiton has exited a nonstrategic asset,” said BHP Billiton's chief executive for petroleum, J. Michael Yeager, in a statement.

Last week, another Chinese state-owned energy company, CNOOC Ltd., received Canadian government approval to acquire oil and gas producer Nexen for US$15.1 billion.

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