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BHP says hopes to exit U.S. shale business within two years

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BHP says hopes to exit U.S. shale business within two years

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SYDNEY (Reuters) – BHP Billiton <BHP.AX> <BLT.L> said on Thursday it hopes to divest its troubled U.S. onshore shale business in around two years. BHP entered the shale business at the height of the fracking boom in 2011 and invested billions developing the operations. A fall in oil prices since then has led to pre-tax writedowns of about $13 billion (9.86 billion pounds). BHP last month said divestment of a small portion of onshore shale acreage had been completed in the September 2017 quarter, with “work underway” to exit the remaining acreage. “We really want to get this done in two years, ideally a bit less,” BHP Chief Executive Andrew Mackenzie said at the company’s annual general meeting. BHP’s board has come under pressure from activist shareholders led by New York-based Elliott Management to divest its U.S. shale holdings. The process of preparing the assets for sale had been made easier following the company’s decision earlier this year to publicly disclose its divestment plans, with informal meetings already occurring with potential buyers, Mackenzie said. “We are pushing on as quickly as we can,” he said. “What you have to do is build quite a comprehensive data rooms so that a wide range of people can come and look and kick the tyres before they buy,” Mackenzie said.

(Reporting by James Regan; editing by Richard Pullin)
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