Kloppers questions China

WHILE all signals seem to be pointing to a robust economic rebound, BHP Billiton chief executive Marius Kloppers said the recovery may not be as strong as previous upturns.
Kloppers questions China Kloppers questions China Kloppers questions China Kloppers questions China Kloppers questions China

BHP Billiton's Marius Kloppers

Kate Haycock

Speaking at the company’s annual general meeting in London overnight, Kloppers managed to convey cautious optimism.

His comments were in keeping with the perspective presented by the company in its annual report and comments from outgoing chairman Don Argus and other senior level BHP staff over the past few months.

This perspective is that there are short-term risks to commodities demand.

Klopper said China had been the major and “sometimes only” source of demand for commodities in the second half of the 2008-09 financial year.

“It is thus our view that restocking in China is now essentially complete and we are seeing signs of a pullback in demand as a consequence,” Kloppers warned.

However, there are signs that restocking in other major economies may be restarting, he added, as steel markets in the United States, Europe and Japan recover.

“The key driver of incremental commodities demand in the near term will be to what extent the OECD [Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development] experiences a more usual post recession restocking, or whether the restocking will be more lethargic this time around,” Kloppers said.

BHP’s view is the pull out of the recession won’t be as strong as in previous recoveries.

“We, therefore, believe it won’t be until mid-2010 before we see clean underlying demand that is not masked by inventory effects,” he added.

BHP posted a net profit of $US5.9 billion for the 2008-09 financial year, down 62% from $15.4 billion in the previous year.

Shares in BHP are down 2.6% to $36.48 this morning.

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