BHP Billiton posts strong first half profit

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BHP Billiton has posted a first half profit of $9.2 billion, one of the biggest in Australia’s history but short of analyst’s predictions and the record it set last year.

BHP’s first half result last year leveled at $9.75 billion, and according to The Sydney Morning Herald analysts had tipped a $9.27 billion result this year.

Fat Prophets managing director Chris Kimber told the SMH the $9.2 billion profit was still a "very good result" and gave the company strength moving forward.

In a statement BHP said it had delivered strong results despite "significant volatility" across its core markets.

It said record iron ore production in Western Australia and strong petroleum prices, following its move into United States shale gas with the acquisition of Petrohawk Energy, were the driving profit makers.

Poor results in the aluminum and nickel markets weighed on the company, and it said it expected a long term downturn in steelmaking and raw materials demand.

But BHP said while the European debt crisis continued to trouble the global economy, it expected current demand and growth rates to remain strong.

"Of the commodities, copper and iron ore are expected to remain supported by their compelling supply-demand fundamentals while the structural shift in Chinese demand for metallurgical coal remains well entrenched," it said.

The company also warned rising labour costs, particularly with unions driving industrial action on the Queensland BMA coal mines, continued to be a problem.

BHP said the safety of its workers remained a priority and it was continuing to see improvement in its safety indicators.

Since the start of the financial year two workers have lost their lives on BHP operations.

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