MINING giant BHP Billiton revealed last night that it almost doubled its half-year profit last year thanks to booming iron ore and copper prices, and offered shareholders an olive branch in the form of a $10bn (£6.2bn) buyback during this year.
The Anglo-Australian miner announced in Melbourne that attributable profit jumped 71.5 per cent to a record $10.5bn for the July to December period, beating forecasts of $10.3bn.
Revenue rose 39 per cent to $34.17bn, while dividend payments were raised 9.5 per cent to 46 cents a share - slightly below analyst forecasts.
BHP said it would consider both on and off-market execution of its $10bn share buyback, which is on top of an earlier $13bn buyback scheme that was restarted last November.
Chief executive Marius Kloppers had come under pressure from some investors to return more cash, after overseeing three failed attempts by BHP to expand through mergers and acquisitions in recent years.
A merger with Rio Tinto was shelved in 2008, while a $116bn iron ore merger between the firms in Australia was cancelled in 2010.
BHP booked a $314m cost in its results for its $39bn failed bid for Potash, which was abandoned in September after the Canadian government blocked the cross-border takeover.
The FTSE 100-listed firm said it was cautiously optimistic about the economic outlook, with cost pressures outweighed by continued strong demand for commodities.
FAST FACTS | BHP BILLITON
BHP Billiton is the world’s biggest mining company, formed from a merger in 2001.
Its record profits follow a trend for commodities firms, which have benefitted from high demand in growing economies like China.