News Wrap

IN News Wrap: Steelmaker Arrium to cut 250 jobs in Whyalla; Investor pressure grows over BHP Billiton's $6.6B dividend question; and commodities markets ‘too pessimistic’.

Lou Caruana

Steelmaker Arrium to cut 250 jobs in Whyalla

The Whyalla steelworks needs to find another $A40 million in savings on top of cuts to its payroll from the loss of 250 jobs announced yesterday, reports the Adelaide Advertiser.

“It’s a really tough day for our employees and their families,” Arrium chief executive for steel Steve Hamer said.

“While it’s a necessary decision, it’s an internationally driven decision given the very high levels of steel being exported around the world, with very low prices and very low margins.”

Investor pressure grows over BHP Billiton's $6.6B dividend question

One of BHP Billiton's biggest shareholders says its annual commitment not to let its $US6.6 billion dividend fall is an "aspiration" that should not be prioritised over the health of the balance sheet, reports the Australian Financial Review.

Ross Barker, managing director of top 10 shareholder the Australian Foundation Investment Company, said the progressive dividend policy was subject to market conditions and "history shows, no board can actually make a cast-iron commitment because they just don't know what the future holds".

"We accept that it is the company's aspiration but it has to be subservient to the need to make sure debt is kept sensible," Barker told the newspaper.

"In our view, as a long-term investor, the balance sheet is more important."

Commodities markets ‘too pessimistic’

The Age reports that renewed weakness in global commodity prices is obviously a concern for producers, but the current pessimism looks overdone, says Capital Economics.

Key commodity prices – notably oil and copper – have been slipping over the past weeks, pulled down by worries about China's growth and as chances grow that the US Federal Reserve will start lifting US rates in December, which has strengthened the greenback and in turn weighed on commodities.

"We still expect prices to recover gradually over the coming months, while remaining low enough to provide a substantial boost to spending on other goods and services," Capital Economics chief global economist Julian Jessop said.