By Scott Kanowsky
Investing.com -- Sydney-listed shares of Woodside Energy Ltd (ASX: WDS ) jumped on Tuesday after Australia's largest listed energy company reported a surge in first-half pre-tax profit and unveiled a sharp rise in its interim dividend.
The oil and gas firm posted income before tax of $2.9 billion in the initial six months of the year, up from $503 million in the corresponding period in 2021. The nearly 482% increase was driven by a "significant" uptick in gas prices and a positive windfall from the completion of its merger with BHP's (ASX: BHP ) petroleum business.
A record interim dividend of 109 U.S. cents per share was also declared, marking a 263% improvement versus the first half of last year and above analyst estimates. Shareholders will receive a total of $2.1 billion.
“The upheavals in global and Australian energy markets witnessed over the course of the past six months have shone a spotlight on the importance of gas in the world’s energy mix and underscores our confidence in the longer-term demand outlook for gas," said Woodside Chief Executive Officer Meg O'Neill in a statement.
Prices for liquified natural gas, which makes up 70% of the group's business portfolio, have been driven higher in part by gas buyers in Asia and Europe seeking alternatives to Russia after the country was hit by sanctions following the outbreak of the war in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Woodside said its $5.6 billion Scarborough gas project, which it now owns completely following the BHP oil and gas business merger, will not become fully operational until 2026. The company added that is making "progress" in its almost 18-month pursuit of a buyer for a stake in Scarborough.
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