BHP hits profit record and sees demand healing in China

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Chief executive officer Mike Henry said China’s emergence from the Covid-19 lockdowns would provide a “tailwind” to the global economy, in a counterpoint to jittery sentiment on China following a swath of surprisingly weak data.

MELBOURNE: BHP Group, the world’s biggest miner, posted its highest ever full-year profit on record commodity prices and will push ahead with growth options on a stronger demand outlook in China.

The producer will study plans to expand its top-earning iron ore unit to 330 million tonnes of production a year, and is continuing to assess options to lift volumes in copper and nickel, Melbourne-based BHP said yesterday in a statement.

A giant new potash mine in Canada remains on track to begin out in 2026.

Chief executive officer Mike Henry said China’s emergence from the Covid-19 lockdowns would provide a “tailwind” to the global economy, in a counterpoint to jittery sentiment on China following a swath of surprisingly weak data.

“We think that over the next six to 12 months, China, if anything, is going to provide some stability to global growth and will help offset some of the slowing that we see elsewhere,” Henry said. China typically accounts for more than 60% of BHP’s revenue.

Rival miners have cautioned over a weaker outlook and Rio Tinto Group last month reported a decline in first-half profits and halved its dividend.

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Gold giant Newmont Mining Corp and copper producer First Quantum Minerals Ltd have also warned investors in recent weeks on the impact of inflationary pressures.

BHP’s result was “better than expected”, Goldman Sachs Group Inc analysts Paul Young and Hugo Nicolaci wrote in a note. But they warned stronger currencies and weaker commodity prices were key downside risks, particularly if China’s property sector does not recover in the next year.

Rival miners have cautioned over a weaker outlook and Rio Tinto Group last month reported a decline in first-half profits and halved its dividend.

Although BHP will face pressure from a slowdown in advanced economies, higher costs and tighter labour markets, there will be opportunities for low-cost miners as inflation also drives prices higher, the company said.

Production costs across major assets rose 13% on Covid-related issues and higher prices of diesel and electricity.

China’s central bank on Monday cut interest rates as data showed the economy struggling on multiple fronts, and BHP’s comment on prospects there came with some caveats.

Downside risks in China include the possibility of further lockdowns, slowing exports, and continued turbulence in the country’s real estate sector, BHP said.

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