MELBOURNE, May 4 (Reuters) - Australia warned on Thursday that a push by activist investor Elliott Management to ditch global miner BHP Billiton's dual listing may be a criminal offence and could be subject to civil penalties.
Australian Treasurer Scott Morrison confirmed on Thursday that BHP Billiton is required to remain listed on the Australian Securities Exchange under the terms of the government's approval of the merger of BHP and Billiton in 2001.
"It is unthinkable that any Australian government could allow this original Big Australian to head offshore," Morrison said in a statement.
Elliott, led by U.S. financier Paul Singer, wants BHP to spin off its U.S. oil assets, ditch dual listings in London and Sydney to consolidate them in the U.K., and hand back more money to shareholders.
Morrison warned that BHP Billiton could face civil penalties under the country's foreign takeovers law if it were to carry out Elliott's proposal to scrap the dual listing in Australia and could block a takeover of BHP's Australian assets by a London-listed company. (Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Chris Reese)