Wilson goes in BHP restructure

AFTER posting a $US5.7 ($A7.9) billion loss, BHP Billiton has announced a restructure that will give it a “simplified operating model to accelerate productivity and value creation”.
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Outgoing BHP Billiton iron ore president Jimmy Wilson.

Noel Dyson

As part of this restructure, BHP president iron ore Jimmy Wilson is leaving the company.

BHP’s mineral operations will be organised into two regional units – Minerals Australia and Minerals Americas. It oil and gas exploration and production operations will remain housed within a global Petroleum unit.

Mike Henry, who has been running BHP’s coal business in Queensland, is being moved to Melbourne and will become president operations Minerals Australia. He will have responsibility for BHP’s Australia iron ore and coal operations, the Olympic Dam copper mine, Nickel West and the Indomet coal project.

Henry will also be responsible for the development of the company’s maintenance practices.

BHP president copper Daniel Malchuk is becoming president operations Minerals Americas.

He will have responsibility for BHP’s copper assets in Chile, the New Mexico coal mine in the US, the company’s non-operated interest in the Antamina copper joint venture in Peru, the Cerrejon coal joint venture in Colombia and the Resolution copper project in the US.

Malchuk, who is to remain in Santiago, Chile, will be responsible for the development of a new projects centre of excellence and will oversee the company’s copper exploration program.

BHP’s chief commercial officer Dean Dalla Valle has been given responsibility for leading BHP’s response to the Samarco dam failure. He will be based in Brazil.

Dalla Valle will retain responsibility for the Jansen potash project in Canada.

BHP CEO Andrew Mackenzie said there would be changes to BHP’s functional model to improve the efficiency and capability of service delivery to the company.

As part of this Diane Jurgens, who BHP hired away from General Motors last year, has been named chief technology officer. Part of her role will be to head a technology function being established to provide operational and information technology services to the company.

Chief financial officer Peter Beaven is to take on global responsibility for strategy and business development. This should further bolster the company’s capital expenditure discipline because Beavens will no doubt want to know that any projects proposed will have real returns.

Another key change is the appointment of Arnold Balhuizen to the role of president, marketing and supply. He will remain based in Singapore.

Chief legal counsel Geoff Healy has had his role beefed up to chief risk and legal officer.

While BHP posted a loss, the company managed to boost productivity. Its Queensland coal unit cash costs declined by 17%. Over in Western Australia, the company’s iron ore cash costs fell 25%. Even the company’s US petroleum operation had some wins. Black Hawk well costs fell 30%.

Sadly for Wilson, while he managed to bring the iron ore business’ costs down, when the music stopped after Mackenzie’s restructure, there was no seat for him.

No doubt pleasing many an analyst, BHP has also decided to abandon its progressive dividend policy. Instead the company is going with a policy of paying out 50% of underlying attributable profit as a dividend.

It is issuing a final dividend of 16c a share, up 12c a share from the minimum 4c a share it could have gone with under the policy.

The company had thought that with its spread of mining and petroleum it would be largely immune to commodity price downturns. Few would have foreseen such savage drops to both metals prices and the oil price. Commodity prices had a negative impact of $US7.8 billion.

“Slower growth in China and the disruption of OPEC have resulted in lower prices than expected,” Mackenzie said.

“However, our company remains resilient with assets that generate free cash flow through the cycle and a strong balance sheet.”

On that balance sheet, BHP has net debt of $US25.9 billion – pretty much the same as it was in December 2014.

“We have already responded decisively to the changed conditions,” Mackenzie said.

“The divestment of $US7 billion of assets and the demerger of South32 leaves us with a focused portfolio of large, low-cost, long-life assets in a set of favoured commodities.

“We are operating our assets more productively with $US10 billion of gains achieved since 2012.

“We expect to realise a further $US2.1 billion of gains in the 2016 financial year, when adjusted for the impact of lower grades at Escondida.

“We will also reduce capital expenditure in the 2016 and 2017 financial years by a total of $US3.5 billion, while retaining a suite of high-return, value-enhancing projects.”

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