BHP posts record profit and raises dividend

 
City A.M. Reporter
BHP Billiton reported a record second-half profit driven largely by iron ore, but just missed market forecasts and sounded a warning over costs and longer-term demand.

The global miner also sought to appease investors with a big hike in its dividend.

BHP, the last of the major miners to report results, was confident on the outlook for commodity prices despite expecting weak growth in Europe and the United States.

"We expect robust demand in the short and medium term, supported by commodities intensive emerging economic growth," the company said.

However, it joined its peers in warning costs were rapidly rising.

"In the current environment, tight labour and raw material markets are presenting a challenge for all operators, and BHP Billiton is not immune from that trend," the company said.

It raised its dividend by 22 per cent, which it said reflected its "confidence in the long term outlook for our core commodity markets," after completing a $10bn (£6bn) share buyback earlier than planned.

Investors had been divided over whether to expect another buyback following BHP's recent $12.1bn bid for U.S. shale gas producer Petrohawk Energy, its biggest successful deal since BHP took over Billiton Plc.

Soaring prices for iron ore, copper and oil boosted attributable profit before exceptional items to $10.98bn for the six months to June from $6.77bn a year ago, missing an average forecast of $11.7bn, according to Thomson Reuters poll.

Earnings from iron ore, its biggest division, jumped 122 per cent to $13.3bn, while earnings for base metals soared 47 percent and petroleum earnings grew 38 percent.

It said inflation and the falling US dollar cut underlying earnings by $3.2bn.