BHP changes tack on increasing iron ore levels

BHP has shifted its position on pushing its iron ore production levels in this currently oversupplied market.

The miner has played a major role in contributing to the currently flooded market, which has helped pushed iron ore prices down as Chinese demand softened in line with rising production from it, Rio Tinto, and Vale.

Last year Glencore chairman Ivan Glasenberg pointed the finger squarely at these three miners as the culprits behind the oversupply.

"Unfortunately our competitors in the world have produced more supply than demand and commodity prices are down for that reason," Glasenberg said.

"I'm doing my level best to convince my competitors that we should understand demand and supply.”

 Speaking at a conference yesterday, BHP CEO Andrew Mackenzie appears to have finally taken heed of Glasenberg, announcing BHP’s reversal in position, saying a renewed focus on cash flows means it will no longer rely on higher volumes.

"High quality medium-to-longer term projects will only be pursued at a time when they add greater value than all other options, and do not exacerbate the current supply-demand imbalances,” Mackenzie said.

The miner’s free cash flow will now be focused on value creation and protecting its balance sheet, as well as providing shareholder returns.

“Excess free cash flow will be used for additional returns to shareholders, organic and inorganic value creation projects, or used to strengthen our balance sheet," he said.

It comes on the back of BHP’s latest results, in which it reported a US$5.67 billion loss and major restructuring of the business.

These actions saw Standard & Poor’s reaffirm the miner’s credit rating just weeks after it downgraded the company.

However it is unknown whether Standard & Poor’s results rating BHP as having a higher country risk than fellow iron ore major Rio Tinto played a role in this decision.

S&P lifted BHP’s risk from low to intermediate due to its higher exposure to vacillating Chinese demand, which has waned significantly in the last months and whilst its economic trajectory has been described as “almost impossible to anticipate”, leaving many miners in a difficult position.

"We have revised down our assessment of BHP Billiton's country risk to intermediate from low to better reflect the company's exposure to China, where the company derives about 40 per cent of its revenues," S&P said in a statement.

BHP’s shareprice stood at $16.03 this morning, up from a low of $15.56 yesterday.

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