At the resumption of trading this week, Woodside Petroleum shares plummeted. The successful completion of the institutional leg of a capital raising seemed to leave the market unimpressed, or at least with some indigestion.

Analysts are re-cutting their numbers, and projected target prices are moving up AND down. The offering to individual investors opens on Wednesday. How will they decide whether or not to take up their 1 for 9 entitlement at $27?

At the heart of the analysts’ stoush is the question of strategy. Is this a prudent re-focusing of development priorities or a timid response to a joint venture split? Is Woodside buying Exxon’s Scarborough stake a sign of frustration at difficult joint venture negotiations or simply the result of a disciplined and carefully considered investment process?

Perhaps more importantly; are those who are now suggesting Scarborough is a low quality growth option the same critics who for the last two years criticised Woodside’s lack of growth options?

It can be difficult for investors to decide when the “experts” disagree. Each investor must make up their own mind. Nobody knows the future and the answer to these questions will not be clear for three to five years.

Stepping back from the argument, it’s worth remembering the development of oil and gas fields is a high risk, potentially high reward activity. Woodside have demonstrated their ability to bring vast projects online successfully, and the foresight in building the Pluto processing plant with capacity to handle production from fields as yet undeveloped is an example of their longer term, strategic thinking.

Investors who agree that in a carbon dioxide constrained universe, gas is the answer, may see the current Woodside share price weakness as an opportunity:

As an investor I’d be delighted at the opportunity to buy Woodside shares at $27. And as a trader I see a buying opportunity developing. There is important support near $28, and that’s where I’m setting my price alert.