World Economy

BHP Billiton Posts $6.4b Loss

Commodity prices are recovering.Commodity prices are recovering.

Mining giant BHP Billiton has reported a record loss for the past year following a mining disaster in Brazil and a slump in commodity prices.

The Anglo-Australian commodities firm reported an annual net loss of $6.4 billion for the year to June 30, BBC reported.

Global mining sector has seen years of weak demand attributed largely to slowing growth in China. BHP results were also hit by costs after the Samarco mining disaster in Brazil, which killed 19 people.

The record losses come after the company had reported a $1.9 billion net profit.

“While commodity prices are expected to remain low and volatile in the short to medium term, we are confident in the long-term outlook for our commodities, particularly oil and copper,” chief executive Andrew Mackenzie said in a statement.

Underlying earnings for the past year, which strip out one-off costs, came in at $1.22 billion.

The financial fallout from the Samarco mining tragedy is still not clear though warns James Butterfill, head of research & investment strategy at ETF Securities.

“There’s a huge uncertainty overhang,” he told the BBC. “The report hasn’t been published with regard to the Samarco dam collapse and there’s currently a $48 billion lawsuit. It’s unrealistic to be that amount, but this is really BHP’s Macondo well incident theoretically that BP endured.”

However, with regard to the slump in the commodities market, the outlook is expected to improve.

  Good for the Longer Term

Michael McCarthy, an analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney, told the BBC: “There are signs in the commodity prices—and in particular for iron ore and oil—that they have stabilized.

“The demand might be edging back to equilibrium again and that’s good news for the longer term for BHP shareholders.”

Prices for iron ore, which is used to make steel and comprises the bulk of BHP’s earnings, tumbled to a multi-year low of $38 a ton last December, before struggling back up to $60 in the first half of this year.

Low prices pushed BHP’s revenue down 31% to $30.9 billion. BHP Billiton is one of the world’s largest producers of major commodities including iron ore, metallurgical coal, copper and uranium, and has substantial interests in both conventional and shale oil and gas and energy coal. BHP was founded in the mid-1800s in Australia, while Billiton’s roots can be traced back to a tin mine in Indonesia in 1851. The Anglo-Dutch company merged with BHP in 2001 to form a global mining giant.