BHP Billiton to sell West African iron ore assets

BHP Billiton has announced intentions to sell off West African iron ore assets.

The announcement comes in the wake of plunging iron ore prices, investors fleeing the bear market on the commodity, and analyst fears of a gap between supply and global demand.

On Tuesday morning at an Australian Journal of Mining conference BHP Billiton iron ore president Jimmy Wilson said their market outlook was for strong steel demand growth over the next ten years, and that global demand for iron ore would also continue to grow.

However, at the same conference Wilson declared, “We want to move out of our West African position.”

BHP is still targeting overall iron ore production in the Pilbara to hit 212 million tonnes in 2014.

Analysts have forecast more falls as the iron ore price reached $US105 per tonne on Tuesday, with Citi analysts predicting an average price of $US80 in 2016.

Wilson said while 50 per cent of the company's earnings came from iron ore, BHP Billiton was diversified enough to handle price fluctuations and maintain these forecasts.

"The iron ore price we see going down," Wilson told reporters at an iron ore conference in Perth.

“The magnitude of that number… $US80 per tonne feels a little low,” he said.

Wilson said the current credit issue in China and reasonably high iron ore stocks had led to the price decrease.

"I do think we'll see it come down but it will come back up and steady out.”

"Our view is the long-term is still very robust… We shouldn't let today's price influence our long-term thinking."


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