BHP Billiton’s Kloppers is fourth industry giant to go in six months

THE MINING industry was shaken by its latest change at the top last night, as BHP Billiton chief executive Marius Kloppers announced his retirement.

The departure, the latest in a string of shake-ups among the FTSE 100’s mining giants, will see Andrew Mackenzie, who joined from rival Rio Tinto five years ago, take the helm at the Anglo-Australian company, which is the world's largest miner

It follows the exit of American boss Cynthia Carroll and Rio Tinto’s chief executive Tom Albanese. Xstrata’s Mick Davis is also due to step down six months after the company’s mega-merger with Glencore is completed.

Kloppers’ departure means that the FTSE 100’s four biggest mining companies have all announced that their chief executives are leaving in the last six months.

Last night’s announcement came as BHP posted a 43 per cent drop in half-year profits to $5.68bn (£3.68bn), as falling metals prices took their toll.

Mackenzie, who will take control on 10 May, is currently head of BHP’s non-ferrous metals division. The 56-year-old Scot was poached from Rio Tinto in 2008, having previously spent 22 years at BP.

Mackenzie is understood to enjoy a good working relationship with Kloppers, whose departure is believed to be his own decision.

“I’ve been very fortunate to lead one of the world’s great resource companies,” the South African said last night. “Deciding the right time to retire was never going to be easy. However after almost twenty years with BHP Billiton, 12 as a senior executive and nearly six as CEO, I believe now is the right time to pass the leadership baton.” Kloppers had previously said that he planned to serve around five years as chief executive.

BHP blamed the profit fall – the biggest in more than a decade – on a combination of lower prices, a weak dollar and inflation. The company also took a $3bn writedown on its aluminium assets.

BHP chairman Jac Nasser praised the outgoing boss last night, saying: “He leaves BHP Billiton a safer and stronger company.

“Despite an exceptionally difficult economic environment during his tenure, Marius and his team have delivered for shareholders,” Nasser added.