Belfast Telegraph

Mining giant BHP Billiton posts record £4.9bn loss

The world's biggest mining company, BHP Billiton, has recorded its worst ever loss as a slump in commodity prices and impairment charges hammered the firm.

BHP reported a 6.39 billion US dollars (£4.9 billion) net loss for the year, with the Australia-based miner slashing its final dividend by 77%.

Weak iron ore, copper, coal, oil and gas prices have taken their toll on the business.

The company was also hit by 7.7 billion US dollars (£6 billion) of impairment charges, including a 2.2 billion US dollars (£1.7 billion) provision related to a dam collapse in the village of Bento Rodrigues, in south-east Brazil, where it has iron-ore mining operations. Eighteen people died in the disaster.

Chief executive Andrew Mackenzie said: "The last 12 months have been challenging for both BHP Billiton and the resources industry. Nevertheless, our results demonstrate the resilience of our portfolio and the diverse ways in which we can create value for shareholders despite low commodity prices.

"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."

Excluding one-off charges, BHP's underlying profit fell 81% to 1.2 billion US dollars.

Nicholas Hyett, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: "BHP won't be too happy with the record it set today - it's an Olympic effort, but in the wrong direction, thanks to lower commodity prices.

"With dividends now a function of profits, bottom-line growth will be key to future shareholder returns. For now that is being supported by a ruthless cost-cutting campaign, but there's only so far that can go."