BHP raises dividend 55% as buoyant iron and copper production swell coffers

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BHP PLC (LON:BHP) increased its interim dividend by 55% as its iron ore operations in Western Australia and Escondida copper mine hit record production levels.

Revenues in the half-year to end December rose 15% to US$25.6bn, helped by higher metal prices, the increased iron production and record throughput at Escondida.

Underlying profits jumped by 21% to US$14.7bn, that included rises of more than 60% in copper and 40% in iron ore.

Net profits fell to US$3.9bn due to more impairments including a US$2,2bn write-down on its New South Wales coal assets and losses of US$377mln at Samarco, most of which were further provisions related to the tailings dam disaster in 2015, BHP said.

Net operating cash flow was US$9.4bn billion and free cash flow US$5.2bn, which again reflected higher iron ore and copper prices and strong operational performance, said the FTSE 100 miner.

The dividend goes up 55% to US1.01, in line with its policy of paying out 85% of earnings, and taking payouts to US$30bn over the past three years.

Mike Henry, chief executive, said it was a strong set of numbers.

“Our continued delivery of reliable operational performance during the half-supported record production at Western Australia Iron Ore and record concentrator throughput at Escondida.

“Our operations generated robust cash flows, return on capital employed increased to 24 per cent and our balance sheet remains strong with net debt at the bottom of our target range.”

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