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Mining giant BHP's annual net profit slumps 37%

Aug 21. 2018
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By Agence France-Presse

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BHP posted a 37 percent slump in annual net profit Tuesday, hurt by impairment charges related to the sale of its US shale assets and costs associated with the Samarco disaster in Brazil.

The world's biggest miner's profit came in at US$3.7 billion in the year to June 30 after taking into account the previously disclosed writedowns.

Underlying profit -- its preferred measure which strips out one-off costs -- jumped 33 percent to US$8.9 billion, fuelled by robust commodity prices and higher production.

It allowed the company to pay a record final dividend of 63 US cents.

"We have announced a record final dividend for shareholders which reflects strong operating performance, solid prices and capital discipline," said chief executive Andrew Mackenzie.

"Our balance sheet is strong, with net debt now at the lower end of our target range, and our investment plans on track across iron ore, copper, coal and petroleum."

Most of the impairments came from BHP's recent sale of its US shale oil and gas operations to British giant BP for US$10.5 billion, which is expected to be finalised in October.

It is a heavy loss -- the firm spent US$20 billion in 2011 to acquire the assets -- but a potential windfall for shareholders, with BHP voting to return the funds through dividends or a stock buyback.

The move followed a push by New York-based Elliott Advisors, a significant shareholder in the company, for BHP to restructure the business, including spinning off its US oil and gas operations.

It is all part of BHP's plan to focus on its most profitable core long-life operations -- iron ore, copper, petroleum, coal and potash.

During the year, the miner and Vale, co-owners of Samarco, also reached agreement with Brazilian public authorities to settle a 20 billion real (US$5.3 billion) civil suit over a mine collapse that left 19 people dead.

The companies also established a framework to progress a second 155 billion real claim brought by federal prosecutors in the next two years.

The settlement relates to clean-up costs and damages after the 2015 tragedy in which an iron ore tailings dam burst and unleashed a tsunami of toxic waste and buried a nearby village in Brazil's Minas Gerais region.

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