Woodside exits Myanmar citing human rights
Australia's oil and gas giant Woodside is pulling out of Myanmar, saying human rights abuses under the ruling junta mean development is no longer viable.
A year since the military launched a bloody coup that has killed an estimated 1500 civilians, global giants Total and Chevron last week announced their exit on human rights grounds.
Shell, a partner of Woodside Energy and Myanmar Petroleum Exploration and Production, gave up its exploration licences in Myanmar last year.
The latest joint venture for Woodside would have been the first ultra-deep-water development in the Bay of Bengal offshore Myanmar.
"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," chief executive Meg O'Neill said in an ASX announcement on Thursday.
The decision is expected to slice about $US138 million ($A195 million) off the 2021 net profit after tax.
This is in addition to a $US71 million exploration and evaluation expense in the December quarter, the company said.
Daisy Gardener, human rights director at the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility, said security, peace and stability are good for business and good for shareholder outcomes.
"Gas projects in Myanmar generate an estimated $US1 billion ($A1.4 billion) in foreign revenue for the military junta every year, so Woodside withdrawing permanently from the country deals a blow to their ability to buy weapons and fund future atrocities," she said.
Other ASX-listed companies continue to hold exploration licences in Myanmar.
"Any future operations and profits will be disrupted by ongoing unrest and the human rights violations pose an unacceptable risk for shareholders," Ms Gardener said.
Ms O'Neill said while Woodside had hoped to develop gas resources and deliver much-needed energy to the Myanmar people, there was no longer a viable option for Woodside to continue its activities.
Defending the company from criticism that it took too long to exit, she said Woodside has been a responsible foreign investor in Myanmar with conduct guided by United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and other relevant international standards.
Human Rights Watch has called for a global arms embargo by the United Nations and more action from governments to ensure gas revenues don't fund more atrocities.
Woodside has operated in Myanmar since 2013, conducting multiple exploration and drilling campaigns.
Woodside said it will now commence arrangements to formally exit, including tearing up a production sharing contract held with a government enterprise.
The exit costs won't impact on the next dividend payment, the company said.