Goyder lashed out at those shareholders who had used the once-a-year opportunity to ask a question of the Directors, suggesting that those were not “real shareholders” but “ a whole bunch of university students … they have made a $25 investment and probably sold their shares today. Hopefully they made a few cents on the way through.”
A number of issues may be behind Goyder’s loss of gravitas. For one thing, the criticism of Woodside’s continued conviction that gas and more gas is the way forward came not just from small shareholders. Goyder had to tell the AGM that one of Woodside’s large shareholders was not happy with the company’s greenhouse gas targets, which exclude the “scope 3” emissions produced by its customers, and were, as a result, going to vote against the re-election of a certain director.
For another, Goyder had to announce the surprise early retirement of Woodside’s CEO, eight months early, and before he could give the final go-ahead on the Scarborough project. The shock move unsettled some in the market who saw it as a sign of a deterioration in the relationship between Mr Coleman and the board. Some analysts are even suggesting that the new CEO should have the authority to review the Scarborough investment and possibly overhaul the strategy amid the accelerating trend towards net zero emissions.
A minority resolution by activist shareholder group Market Forces seeking a plan to “wind up” Woodside’s oil and gas operations lost by 94.7 million votes to 388.7 million. Though Goyder might like to count that as a win, it must be a bit uncomfortable to realise that the owners of nearly one fifth of the shares in your company think its present operations should be wound up.
And all the time, in the background, is the worry that – despite the Government’s spruiking of gas as the great saviour – the Scarborough project may not be the money-spinner the outgoing CEO seems to think.
The only independent assessment of Scarborough’s competitiveness available in the public domain – by Wood Mackenzie, released in early 2020 – shows gas from Scarborough to be the most expensive LNG of nine projects considered. Qatar could land LNG in Japan for less than it cost Woodside to get Scarborough gas to the inlet of the Pluto LNG plant. Woodside has worked to improve the economics of Scarborough since then, but it’s by no means certain that Scarborough gas will make the killing that Woodside needs.
Maybe Goyder has more on his mind than he’s letting on.