LAUNCESTON, AUSTRALIA – There has been no shortage of advice doled out to incoming BHP Billiton chairman Ken MacKenzie on how to boost the world’s largest mining company, but ultimately his role comes down to a fairly straightforward choice.
Does BHP want to be a cutting edge mining company always on the prowl for the next big opportunity, or does it want to be a cautious, dividend-focused cash generator, something akin to being the telecoms utility of the mining world?
If there is anything that can be learned from the performance of BHP, and indeed most of its global mining rivals, in the past decade, it’s that escaping the ups and downs of the commodity cycle is extremely difficult for a miner.
BHP’s Australia-listed shares ended at A$22.99 ($17.51) on June 16, down 8.3 percent since the end of last year, but still above the closing low of A$14.20 on Jan. 21, 2016.
On that view BHP’s share price performance doesn’t actually look that bad, with the stock gaining rapidly from the January low last year on the back of sharp gains in the price of its main profit earner, iron ore, as well as other commodities, especially coal. But over the longer term, BHP’s performance becomes much less impressive.
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