BHP's new chairman makes a subtle dig at Elliott at the company's AGM

Courtney Goldsmith
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Chief executive Andrew Mackenzie and chairman Ken MacKenzie spoke at the AGM today
Chief executive Andrew Mackenzie and chairman Ken MacKenzie spoke at the AGM today (Source: BHP Billiton)

BHP Billiton's new chairman appeared to hit out at activist investors like Elliott Advisers at the company's annual general meeting (AGM) today.

Ken MacKenzie, who joined the company last month, had gone on a "listening tour" with investors after the mining giant drew the ire of US activist hedge fund Elliott, which has built up a five per cent stake in BHP.

MacKenzie said it was the board's job to set the company's strategy.

He said:

While the purpose of the tour was to listen, it was not a polling exercise. It is the role of the board as the company's stewards to listen and be responsive to our stakeholders.

But ultimately, it is up to the board to choose the course it believes will best benefit shareholders.

Elliott has campaigned for change at BHP, pressuring the company to exit US shale and review its petroleum business, enhance returns to shareholders and unify its dual-listed corporate structure. It also called for an overhaul of the board.

MacKenzie also said the board must continue to "evolve" and board requirements will be reviewed.

‚Äč"We recognise that the board needs to continue to evolve to take into account the rapidly changing environment in which we operate. So, we will undertake a review of the board skills and experience requirements during this financial year."

He added that the company would form a working group to focus on strengthening the application of the company's framework of capital discipline. "This will help us to further review and improve our capital allocation activities and metrics, as well as how we communicate our decisions transparently to the market," he said.

The chairman also used the podium to back the company's chief executive, Andrew Mackenzie (no relation).

MacKenzie said BHP had become simpler and more efficient. "There is much your CEO, Andrew Mackenzie, and his leadership team have delivered over the past five years to set BHP up for success."

Read more: BHP Billiton to face shareholder questions over strategy

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