Shell

Shell is selling its local petrol stations, refining operations and stake in Woodside as part of a $17 billion global selloff. Photo: Luis Enrique Ascui

Royal Dutch Shell has confirmed for the first time its Australian petrol stations and refineries are on the block and left the door open to selling its remaining $7.4 billion stake in Woodside Petroleum.

Speaking to investors at an investor briefing on Thursday evening (Sydney time), chief executive Ben van Beurden would not comment on speculation the energy giant will sell its Woodside shares.

"I hope you will forgive me for not commenting on Woodside," he said.

Mr van Beurden did, however, promise to accelerate asset sales across its worldwide portfolio, setting a $US15 billion ($17.2 billion) target for divestments for 2014-15.

Shell has refused to comment on the sale of its petrol stations and refineries.

But at the briefing Mr van Beurden said the company had received expressions of interest to acquire its Australian refining business and “parts of its marketing portfolio” and said it was “considering its options for divestment, subject to achieving satisfactory commercial terms for these positions”.

The Australian Financial Review has reported potential bidders for the refineries and petrol stations include a consortium between Macquarie and ¬Glencore Xstrata, and one involving trader Vitol.

Private equity giant TPG had teamed up with Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan as well as the Kuwait Investment Authority but it is understood this consortium has withdrawn from the process managed by Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Mr van Beurden said on Thursday the oil major would “sharpen up” in operations, cut investment in growth ventures and pick up the pace of asset sales.

“We are making hard choices in our worldwide portfolio to improve Shell’s capital efficiency,” he said.

Confirming a 70 per cent slump in fourth-quarter net earnings to $US2.2 billion, Mr van Beurden said capital spending would drop to $US37 billion this year, from $US46 billion in 2013. The 2014 total includes $US2 billion of previously announced acquisitions.

Shell last week agreed to sell its stake in Chevron’s Wheatstone liquefied natural gas venture in Western Australia to a Kuwaiti company for $US1.135 billion, and cast doubt on its commitment to its Arrow LNG project in Queensland after cutting at least 250 jobs.

Mr van Beurden, who took over from Peter Voser on January 1, said Shell would continue to invest in new projects and create value but that capital efficiency would improve.

“Our ambitious growth drive in recent years has yielded a step change in Shell’s portfolio and options, with more growth to come, but at the same time we have lost some momentum in operational delivery, and we can sharpen up in a number of areas.”

Mr van Beurden singled out the ¬global downstream business as one area for improvement, along with North American resources plays.

Shell also said it would halt its ¬exploration program in Alaska in 2014 following a US court ruling last week. Former Shell Australia chairman Ann Pickard was last year appointed to head the major’s operations in the difficult Arctic region.