Archive | BHP Billiton

Funds to Go for BHP’s Jugular If Miner Doesn’t Deliver Goods – by David Stringer (Bloomberg News – August 20, 2017)

BHP Billiton Ltd.’s truce with activist investors led by billionaire Paul Singer won’t last long if the world’s biggest mining company doesn’t pump up returns and deliver on strategic reform in the wake of its expected bumper profit report this week.

The naming in June of BHP’s youngest director Ken MacKenzie, 53, as chairman from next month has helped soothe disgruntled shareholders including Singer’s Elliott Management Corp., while continued demand growth in China for iron ore to coal is boosting prices, swelling earnings’ forecasts and raising expectations for higher payouts.

“They’ve got the most breathing space they’ve had in a long time,” Peter O’Connor, a Sydney-based analyst with Shaw and Partners Ltd., said by phone. “But if they mess up, the activists are going to be back on their jugular.” Continue Reading →

BHP commits $2.5bn to extend life of Spence copper mine in Chile – by Cecilia Jamasmie ( – August 17, 2017)

Mining giant BHP (ASX:BHP) greenlighted Thursday a long-awaited $2.46 billion expansion of its Spence copper mine in Chile, which will add another 50 years to the operation’s productive life.

The decision comes at a time when copper prices have reached their highest levels since late 2014 and will boost BHP’s annual copper production by around 185,000 tonnes of copper over the first decade of the expanded operation, with first production expected in 2021.

Spence’s expansion contemplates the construction of a concentrator plant and a desalination plant at Mejillones port, located about 60 km north of Antofagasta city, which will be built and operated by a third party. BHP has committed to a 20-year lease nominally worth $1.43 billion. Continue Reading →

As Good as It Gets: Iron Ore Risks a Reversal as China Cools – by Jasmine Ng (Bloomberg News – August 15, 2017)

Iron ore in the $70s a ton may be as good as it gets for some time. After rallying hard in June and July, the commodity may see its gains unravel over the second half as steel production in China eases back from a record pace just as global miners pump up volumes.

The robust demand that’s supported gains may fade as steelmakers start to dial back output, according to Capital Economics Ltd., which came out first among forecasters in the second quarter, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Others expecting a drop include Citigroup Inc., Sucden Financial Ltd., Axiom Capital Management Inc. and hedge fund Academia Capital.

“There was some fundamental support for iron ore’s rally, namely strong growth in China’s steel output,” Caroline Bain, chief commodities economist at Capital Economics, said by email. “Stocks at China’s ports are now stubbornly high and if, as seems likely, steel production and demand eases back later in the year, then we see iron ore prices coming under renewed pressure.” Continue Reading →

Activist Shareholder Elliott Raises Stake in World’s Biggest Miner – by David Stringer (Bloomberg News – August 16, 2017)

BHP Billiton Ltd. appears to be heeding investors’ calls for change, activist shareholder Elliott Management Corp. said, disclosing it has boosted its holding in the world’s biggest mining company.

Paul Singer’s Elliott raised its stake in BHP’s London-traded shares to 5 percent, the fund said Wednesday in a statement, from a 4.1 percent interest in April. The fund has an economic interest in 0.5 percent in BHP’s Sydney-listed shares, according to its website.

Under U.K. law, investors holding 5 percent or more have power to call a company meeting. BHP declined to comment on Elliott’s change in holdings. Continue Reading →

Exclusive: Mitsui, Cobra in talks with BHP over desalination plant – sources – by Gram Slattery (Reuters U.S. – August 10, 2017)

SANTIAGO (Reuters) – A consortium made up of Mitsui & Co and Grupo Cobra is in exclusive talks with BHP Billiton Plc to build an $800 million desalination plant at its Spence copper mine in Chile, two sources with knowledge of the process told Reuters this week.

This means BHP, the world’s biggest mining house, is advancing the contracting process for a planned $2.5 billion expansion at Spence, a project that has been on ice for years.

A number of other companies bid on constructing the plant, including a consortium of Canada’s Brookfield Asset Management and Spain’s Acciona, but BHP has selected the Mitsui group to go ahead with bilateral negotiations, said the sources, who requested anonymity because the matter is private. Continue Reading →

BHP turns to electric car batteries to recharge its nickel business – by James Regan (Reuters U.S. – August 9, 2017)

SYDNEY (Reuters) – The rise of electric vehicles is driving the world’s biggest mining house, BHP, to switch gears and invest heavily in its long-suffering nickel business.

Eduard Haegel, division chief of BHP Nickel West, said the company planned to spend more than $43 million building a nickel processing plant near Perth, Australia as part of a broader plan to reposition the business around batteries.

Haegel told the “Diggers and Dealers” conference in Australia he expected demand for batteries used to power electric cars to account for about 90 percent of Nickel West’s output within five or six years, replacing traditional markets, such as stainless steel makers. Continue Reading →

BHP presses for cheaper power ahead of Olympic Dam mine expansion (Reuters U.S. – August 4, 2017)

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – BHP Billiton is looking for ways to shore up power supply and bring down power costs at its Olympic Dam copper mine in Australia, as it plans to expand following a string of electrical outages, the mine’s head said on Friday.

The mine has been badly hit by an energy crisis in Australia stoked by the rapid rise of wind power and closure of coal-fired power plants. This has destabilized the national grid and soaring natural gas prices have driven up power tariffs.

A blackout last year forced Olympic Dam to shut for two weeks, costing the company $105 million. Over the past year, rising power bills have added around $30 million to its costs.  Olympic Dam President Jacqui McGill said security of supply, price and system reliability are all challenges for the mine. Continue Reading →

BHP’s Canadian potash plan not a done deal – by Matt Chambers (The Australian – July 31, 2017)

It is unlikely that BHP’s latest $US4.7 billion ($5.8bn) plan for its Jansen potash project in Canada — which chief executive Andrew Mackenzie is aiming to have in ­directors’ hands for approval within a year — will go ahead with­out ­substantial improvements to ­design or the ­market outlook.

Mackenzie put the big Canadian potash project back on the drawing board as BHP’s major medium-term mining growth option, alongside a Spence copper mine expansion in Chile, just two months ago, after previously flagging a slowdown and even mothballing of the project. So it is expected to be a focal point of briefings after BHP delivers an expected full-year profit of $US7.2bn later this month.

At Spence, a $US2bn underground mine approval is looking very likely in the next few weeks, as copper sentiment is running hot and BHP has cut a previous cost estimate by a third, boosting the expected rate of return to around 15 per cent. Continue Reading →

Goldman turns bullish on iron ore – for the moment – by Jasmine Ng (Australian Financial Review/Bloomberg – July 28, 2017)

Goldman Sachs boosted its iron ore forecasts after better-than-expected demand in China raised prices, but warned that it remains bearish on next year amid prospects for plentiful mine supplies and a worldwide glut.

The three-month forecast was raised to $US70 a tonne from $US55, and the year-end target increased by $US5 to $US60, according to a report from analysts including Yubin Fu and Max Layton received on Thursday. Next year, prices are still expected to drop, it said.

Iron ore has surged in recent weeks to top $US70 a tonne on sustained demand from China, the largest user. Steel mills in the country have benefited from rising product prices and strong profit margins after the government shuttered some capacity, and remaining producers are making record volumes. Continue Reading →

World’s Biggest Miner Speeds Hunt for Copper in ‘Last Frontier’ – by David Stringer, Laura Millan Lombrana and Stephan Kueffner (Bloomberg News – July 25, 2017)

BHP Billiton Ltd., the world’s biggest miner, has opened an office and is seeking to add staff in Ecuador as it advances a search for copper in a nation that’s becoming the sector’s exploration hot-spot.

Melbourne-based BHP’s local unit, Cerro Quebrado, will spend about $82 million on exploration, having established a base in the capital, Quito, and advertised for workers including a senior geologist. The value of Ecuador’s mining sector could rise to $7.9 billion by 2021 from $1.1 billion this year as major players arrive, according to Fitch Group’s BMI Research.

BHP joins Australian competitors including billionaire Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting Pty, Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. and Newcrest Mining Ltd. in establishing offices or adding exploration licenses in the nation, according to Rodrigo Izurieta, president of Ecuador’s Mining Chamber. Continue Reading →

BHP defends plan to invest $6bn in Canadian potash project – by Matt Chambers (The Australian – July 24, 2017)

BHP Billiton has defended its contentious plans for a fresh $US4.7 billion ($5.9bn) investment to bring the Jansen potash project in Canada’s Saskatchewan into production, saying low prices are expected to rise as oversupply eases. The mining giant added that the project would only go ahead if strict investment hurdles were overcome.

The defence, posted to its website earlier yesterday, comes after US fertiliser giant Mosaic cast doubt on the plan’s timing and economics and as US activist fund Elliott uses the plans to open up a new front in its campaign to restructure BHP.

BHP’s principal potash analyst, Paul Burnside, said the Jansen project, where BHP has already approved $US3.8bn to access the 1km deep ore body ahead of a development decision, could support attractive shareholder ­returns over decades. “We’re excited to have this option in our portfolio, and there are many ways we can realise value from it,” Mr Burnside said. Continue Reading →

BHP’s $6bn potash play a misstep, warns Elliott Management – by Matt Chambers (The Australian – July 20, 2017)

New York hedge fund Elliott Management says BHP Billiton’s plans to approve a $US4.7 billion ($6bn) potash project in Saskatchewan are alarming, with the activist fund querying whether potash could be “the next shale”.

“This sounds alarmingly familiar and comes as the company proclaims the dubious strategy of ‘Thinking Big’ — a concept that has been disastrous for BHP shareholders,” an Elliott spokesman said. “We share the deep concerns raised by analysts and shareholders that expanding into potash could be a severe strategic misstep,” Elliott said, without naming the analysts or shareholders.

“Think Big” is the slogan BHP has used in a $10 million ad campaign in recent months that has dropped the Billiton name for marketing purposes. Continue Reading →

Potash call marks fork in the road for BHP’s Ken MacKenzie – by Stephen Bartholomeusz (The Australian – July 18, 2017)

It could be regarded as a deliberate provocation, a statement of defiance and intent. The latest addition to BHP Billiton’s “Prospects” blog will, intentionally or not, irritate the group’s activist stalker, Elliott Management and its supporters. In the blog item, BHP’s principal potash analyst, Dr Paul Burnside, makes the demand-side case for potash, promising an analysis of the supply side in a future entry.

The issue is somewhat controversial in the context of BHP and Elliott’s attempt to force its own agenda on the company. BHP has, of course, already committed $US3.8 billion to its Jansen potash project in Canada and earlier this year foreshadowed a decision as early as next year on whether to proceed with the first phase of a project that could cost a further $US8bn to $US10bn.

Despite the dramatic reductions in its capital investment once the commodity boom ended, BHP and its chief executive Andrew Mackenzie have remained enthusiastic about the long-term prospect of entering the potash market and adding a “fifth pillar” to BHP’s portfolio of iron ore, coal, copper and petroleum. Continue Reading →

BHP-Vale JV Excused From Paying $6.3 Billion Legal Guarantee – by R.T. Watson (Bloomberg News – July 19, 2017)

(Bloomberg) — A Brazilian judge denied a request by prosecutors for companies and individuals facing criminal charges related to a dam spill to pay financial guarantees, according to court documents obtained by Bloomberg.

The stalled Samarco Mineracao SA joint venture and its owners BHP Billiton Ltd. and Vale SA won’t have to pay a 20 billion-real ($6.3 billion) guarantee while the case is being tried and final damages calculated, the documents show. The judge also ruled that the individuals aren’t required to pay any financial guarantees or be subjected to travel restrictions such as passport seizure.

Federal prosecutors filed criminal charges including homicide against 21 people linked to the operators and owners of the iron-ore mine, while also accusing defendants of a series of environmental crimes. A November 2015 tailings dam collapse killed as many as 19 people and polluted waterways in two states. Among the accused individuals are Vale’s head of iron ore, Peter Poppinga, and Samarco chief executive officer at the time of the incident, Ricardo Vescovi. The case could go before a jury. Continue Reading →

Divisive $13 Billion Potash Plan to Test BHP’s New Chairman – by David Stringer (Bloomberg News – July 17, 2017)

BHP Billiton Ltd.’s plan to enter the potash market with a contentious $13 billion project in Canada is adding to challenges facing the incoming chairman of the world biggest mining company.

Ken MacKenzie, a 53-year-old board member who takes up the role in September, currently is on a global tour to meet investors in the wake of an activist campaign in recent months spearheaded by Elliott Management Corp. Issues of concern for some shareholders include the producer’s U.S. onshore oil and gas assets and its plans to accelerate the Jansen potash venture.

Proceeding with Jansen risks a “severe strategic misstep,” according to Sanford C. Bernstein Ltd. analyst Paul Gait, as the new supply would risk depressing prices by delaying to about 2036 the ability of the potash market to work through overcapacity. Paul Singer’s Elliott went public in April with a campaign seeking asset sales and a corporate overhaul, claiming management decisions have eroded as much as $40 billion in value. Continue Reading →