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Origin to raise $1.8B in share sale, sell assets

Grant King, managing director of Origin Energy Ltd., speaks during an event hosted by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) in Brisbane, Australia, on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015. Origin Energy is Australia's largest electricity and gas retailer.
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Grant King, managing director of Origin Energy Ltd., speaks during an event hosted by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) in Brisbane, Australia, on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015. Origin Energy is Australia's largest electricity and gas retailer.

Origin Energy, Australia's top power and gas retailer, said on Tuesday it wanted to raise A$2.5 billion ($1.8 billion) from a sale of new shares, sell assets and cut its dividend to shore up its balance sheet.

The company caved in to pressure to protect its investment grade rating as oil prices have collapsed, hurting it just as it is about to start producing from the A$25 billion Australia Pacific Liquefied Natural Gas project in Queensland.

"We believe this package of initiatives is prudent in light of current market conditions and strikes a reasonable balance in the best interest of all shareholders," Origin Chairman Gordon Cairns said in a statement.

Origin plans to offer new stock to its shareholders at a massive 34 percent discount to its close on Tuesday, which was at a nine-year low.

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It aims to sell up to A$800 million of assets by June 2017. It raised more than $1 billion from the sale its stake in New Zealand's Contact Energy in August.

It flagged it would save A$420 million by cutting its dividend by a fifth, and would slash capital spending and working capital requirements by A$1 billion over the next two years.