There's clearly a movement among the Big Oil companies toward the natural gas sector. One of the latest steps is being taken by Europe's Royal Dutch Shell
Woodside, that nation's second-largest oil-and-gas producer, following mining giant BHP Billiton
Shell itself attempted a takeover of Woodside a decade ago, only to be thwarted by Australian authorities. For that reason, among others, I wouldn't be surprised to learn of a bid for the $34 billion company by BHP Billiton, which, in addition to its energy supremacy in Australia, is also the world's largest mining company.
BHP Billiton's effort to acquire Canada's PotashCorp
Most members of the Big Oil contingent have been on the acquisition trail with an eye toward increasing their presence in natural gas. For instance, in the biggest deal of them all -- about $30 billion -- ExxonMobil
Also, a partnership between BG Group and ConocoPhillips
Shell, which will sell up to $8 billion in properties in the next couple of years, while laying off 7,000 employees and trimming its refinery business, just might spend as much as $50 billion for gas assets in Australia during the next 10 years. As recently as August, it partnered with PetroChina
Unless it misses its bet on the coming ascendancy of natural gas, Shell, which a few years ago was laboring under a scandal involving the overbooking of its reserves numbers, appears to have its operating and financial acts together. With its 88% earnings growth in the third quarter -- after excluding one-time items -- along with its logical bet on the future of natural gas, a fool might ignore this big company, but a Fool clearly would not.