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BHP Billiton slashes dividend amid plunging commodity prices

Miner cuts its half-year dividend by 74% to 16 cents
BHP Billiton slashes dividend amid plunging commodity prices
BHP said its productivity had continued to improve and it had maintained its strong balance sheet

Global mining giant BHP Billiton (LON:BLT) slashed its dividend by three quarters and forecast no let-up in falling commodity prices and market volatility.

BHP said it was cutting the half-year dividend by 74% to 16 cents as it posted a 54% drop in half-year profits to just under US$6bn in the six months to December 31.

The group said its productivity had continued to improve and it had maintained its strong balance sheet with net debt of US$25.9bn broadly unchanged from December 2014.

But it said it now believed the period of weaker prices and higher volatility would be prolonged, despite its readiness for lower prices across its commodities.

Chairman Jac Nasser said since the merger of BHP and Billiton in 2001, the company had returned a total of US$77bn in cash to shareholders, which it said was more than any other company in the sector.

"From a position of strength, we have adopted a dividend policy that further protects our balance sheet and ensures financial flexibility," Nasser said.

Chief executive Andrew Mackenzie said: "Slower growth in China and the disruption of OPEC have resulted in lower prices than expected.

"However, our company remains resilient with assets that generate free cash flow through the cycle and a strong balance sheet."

BHP also unveiled a restructuring under which its minerals production operations would be organised into two regional units: Minerals Australia and Minerals Americas.

The company's oil and gas exploration and production operations will continue to be housed within a global petroleum division, reflecting the operating environment in that sector.

It also launched a management shake-up resulting in the departure from the group of two executives: the president of its Australian iron ore business, Jimmy Wilson, and its petroleum president Tim Cutt.

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