BHP Billiton Ltd paid out a record dividend as profits hit a four-year high on stronger prices and confirmed that it will return the bulk of almost US$11 billion in asset sales to investors.
The world’s top miner yesterday raised its annual dividend 42 percent, including a record final payment, although it said it will wait to confirm how and when it will hand back a further windfall from deals agreed last month to sell US shale assets.
BHP follows Rio Tinto Group and Vale SA in raising payouts, as investors press for greater rewards.
While BHP continues to have a positive outlook bolstered by rising commodities demand in the developed world, it said key oil, copper and coal units are forecast to see rising costs, and also flagged concerns over slower growth in China and global trade tensions.
Full-year underlying earnings jumped 33 percent to US$8.9 billion in the 12 months through June, Melbourne-based BHP said in a statement.
That compared with a US$9.2 billion estimate among analysts’ forecasts compiled by Bloomberg.
The producer booked US$5.2 billion of after-tax impairments, including a previously flagged writedown on the value of the shale assets, a US$2.3 billion charge as a result of US President Donald Trump’s US tax reform and US$650 million of costs related to the deadly Samarco dam failure in Brazil.
The producer is pursuing nine significant projects, spending about US$1 billion on exploration work and could consider a potential acquisition to lift output in conventional oil, chief executive officer Andrew Mackenzie said.
“We are really pulling the growth lever pretty hard,” he told reporters on a conference call.
BHP will seek to accelerate conventional oil production to capture better prices, he said.
Output from offshore oil and gas assets is forecast to fall as much as 6 percent in the current fiscal year as fields decline.
The producer’s cash pile is being boosted after it struck the deals last month to sell US shale assets, including to BP PLC.
The net proceeds will be returned once the agreements are completed, Mackenzie said.
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