BHP Billiton Limited, the world’s largest mining company by market value, reported a staggering 86 percent drop in annual profits for the year ended June 30.
The mining giant said Tuesday that its profits after tax tumbled to $1.91 billion -- down from $13.8 billion in the previous year. This is the company’s lowest reported profit in 11 years, according to media reports. Over the past year, demand for oil, copper, iron ore and steel has seen a major drop, and prices have plummeted to multi-year lows over fears of an economic slowdown in China.
However, the company said that it would maintain its “progressive” dividend policy, and announced an increase in its full-year payout by 2 percent to 124 cents a share. The company also generated $6.3 billion in free cash flow and reduced its net debt by $1.4 billion.
“The success of our productivity initiatives generated strong cash flow which supported our dividend commitment, funded continued investment in growth and enabled a reduction in net debt, despite the dramatic fall in commodity prices,” CEO Andrew Mackenzie said, in a statement, adding that the company’s fundamentals remain robust.
Mackenzie added that while economic reforms in China would continue to create short-term volatility, the company was positive about the future of the Chinese economy.
“While we remain confident in the long-term outlook for commodities demand as emerging economies continue to urbanise and industrialise, we have lowered our forecast of peak Chinese steel demand to between 935 million tons and 985 million tons in the mid 2020’s,” Mackenzie said.
Despite the company’s profits sliding to their lowest point in over a decade, its shares were trading up 6.4 percent in London. Analysts also reaffirmed a “buy” rating for the mining giant’s stock, citing the company’s “impressive” operating margin of 19.9 percent.