Woodside to take near $200m profit hit after finally quitting Myanmar

Headshot of Sean Smith
Sean SmithThe West Australian
The military junta has killed an estimated 1500 people since Myanmar’s February 2021 coup.
Camera IconThe military junta has killed an estimated 1500 people since Myanmar’s February 2021 coup. Credit: VT/AP

Woodside Petroleum is belatedly quitting Myanmar — taking a near $200 million hit to profit — a year after a coup by the country’s military.

Thursday’s announcement came a week after French group TotalEnergies and US giant Chevron announced plans to withdraw from Myanmar, citing its worsening human rights situation.

The Myanmar military is thought to have killed at least 1500 and arrested thousands of others in a crackdown on dissent since it took control of the South-east Asian nation in February 2021.

Backed by extensive seismic campaigns and successful drilling, Woodside had built one of the biggest portfolios of offshore acreage in Myanmar after entering the country in 2013.

But having put its involvement in Myanmar under review a year ago, Woodside said on Thursday it was now quitting its last interests in the country, including a proposed development of the A6 gas project with the Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise and the AD-7 offshore exploration block.

“Given the ongoing situation in Myanmar we can no longer contemplate Woodside’s participation in the development of the A-6 gas resources, nor other future activities in-country,” Woodside chief executive Meg O’Neill said.

Woodside said on its website it “condemns human rights violations”.

“We have watched with growing concern since the events of 1 February 2021.

“Woodside supports the people of Myanmar and we hope to see a peaceful journey to democracy.”

The withdrawal has triggered a non-cash charge of about $US138m ($194m) that will be taken to account in Woodside’s 2021 annual profit, due to be announced next month.

This is in addition to the $71m exploration and evaluation expense for block AD-7 disclosed in Woodside’s fourth-quarter report last week.

Two weeks ago, Myanmar’s ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi was sentenced by a military tribunal to four more years in jail for illegally importing and possessing walkie-talkies, flouting COVID-19 rules and incitement against the military.

Before the coup, she had been about to begin another five-year term as the country’s de facto leader after her party won a landslide victory in a November 2020 poll.

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