MELBOURNE, Aug 20 (Reuters) - Woodside Petroleum Ltd, armed with $4.3 billion to spend to fill a gap in its growth prospects, sees the chance of snaring an acquisition improving as rivals step up asset sales and competing bidders dwindle.
Australia's top oil and gas producer, which reported a record half-year profit on Wednesday, is cashed up after shareholders rejected a $2.68 billion plan to buy back and cancel stock held by its top shareholder, Royal Dutch Shell .
Woodside has resisted making acquisitions over the past two years as pricetags were too high, but Chief Executive Peter Coleman said there were now attractive opportunities as companies from Shell to the likes of Apache Corp offload assets.
"We do have a view that M&A opportunities are coming onto the market. They are better priced than what they were two years ago," Coleman told analysts and reporters on a conference call.
At the same time, competitive bidding is likely to ease, Coleman said, as state-owned oil companies like China's CNOOC and PetroChina, are no longer chasing deals after making expensive acquisitions over the past few years.
Woodside has said it is looking for growth prospects worth around $5 billion.
Among other opportunities, he said Woodside was looking at assets that Apache wants to sell, which include LNG stakes in Australia and Canada.
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