BHP Billiton completes $6.3 billion off-market buyback

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Top global miner BHP Billiton (BHP.AX: Quote, Profile, Research) (BLT.L: Quote, Profile, Research) has bought back A$6 billion ($6.3 billion) of its shares, or 4.4 percent of its Australian-listed shares, as part of its $10 billion capital management program.

It said on Monday the final price was set at A$40.85 a share, a 14 percent discount to the market price of A$47.4985, based on the average trading price over the five days up to the close of the tender on April 8.

BHP shares last traded at A$47.76.

The company has bought back $7.8 billion worth of shares in

Australia and Britain since reactivating its share buyback program last November, after it was forced to scrap its $39 billion bid for Canada’s Potash Corp (POT.TO: Quote, Profile, Research).

It has $2.2 billion left to be purchased on market in the UK. It plans to resume the UK buyback and complete it by the end of December.

The buyback has been going on amid persistent speculation that BHP is in talks to buy Royal Dutch Shell’s (RDSa.L: Quote, Profile, Research) 24 percent stake in Woodside Petroleum (WPL.AX: Quote, Profile, Research) as a lauchpad for a full takeover of Australia’s top independent oil and gas producer.

BHP has declined to comment on the speculation. However if it were lining up a deal, it would have to suspend its share buyback program.

Shell Australia’s chief, Ann Pickard, was reported to have played down the rumours that Shell was in talks to sell its stake in Woodside.

“There are no commercial discussions,” local media quoted telling reporters in Perth.

“I’m not in a hurry to do anything. Woodside is a great company,” she was quoted saying.

The Australian newspaper said she declined to elaborate on whether any discussions had already taken place.

(Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Balazs Koranyi)

BHP Billiton completes $6.3 billion off-market buyback