BHP Billiton cuts guidance for copper and coking coal while pointing to a sale of its US shale gas assets

Courtney Goldsmith
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BHP Billiton Announces Record Financial Results
BHP Billiton reported reductions to iron ore, coking coal and copper production for the quarter (Source: Getty)

BHP Billiton, the world's biggest miner, cut its production guidance for key commodities including copper and coking coal and said it will put its US shale fields back up for sale in an operational review for the nine months ended 31 March.

The miner cut its copper guidance by 17 per cent to between 1.33m and 1.36m tonnes following six weeks of striking at its Escondida mine.

Damages to rail infrastructure caused by Cyclone Debbie led BHP to reduce its coking coal guidance nine per cent to between 39m and 41m tonnes.

Full-year production guidance of iron ore was narrowed to between 268m and 272m tonnes.

The firm also said it is progressing with a sale of its US onshore petroleum assets in two key fields.

"Divestment of non-core onshore US acreage is progressing, with the sales process well advanced for up to 50,000 acres of the southern Hawkville. Our Fayetteville field is currently under review and we are considering all options including divestment," BHP Billiton said in its report.

BHP previously tried to sell the Fayetteville assets more than two years ago, before making a U-turn and saying it would "maximise value" of the assets.

The business has come under pressure in recent weeks by activist shareholder Elliott Advisors to spin off its US petroleum arm in order to maximise shareholder value.

Chief executive Andrew Mackenzie said: "Everything we do at BHP Billiton is designed to create value for all of our shareholders, today and for the long term.

"But we have more to do and we are not standing still."

The miner's London-listed shares edged up 0.7 per cent to 1,215p in morning trading after dipping yesterday when Goldman Sachs downgraded BHP to a sell rating due to a poor outlook for key commodities.

Yuen Low, analyst at Shore Capital, said BHP reflected issues similar to those suffered by Rio Tinto during the period, but they were generally not as severe.

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