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MELBOURNE Aug 21 (Reuters) - Global miner BHP posted a 33 percent jump in annual underlying profit on Tuesday on robust oil and copper prices and paid a record final dividend, although it pushed out the timing for some future cost savings.
The world's biggest miner, which has been focussing on simplifying its business and driving returns to shareholders, said it expected the strong momentum to continue into the medium term.
BHP Chief Executive Andrew Mackenzie said however that the miner was "a little more apprehensive" on the short term outlook given the trade ructions between China and the United States.
For the year ended June 30, underlying profit, which excludes one-time gains and losses, rose to $8.93 billion from $6.73 billion, just below an estimate of $9.27 billion according to 15 analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
BHP paid out a record final dividend of $0.63 a share, up from $0.43 a year ago, on the back of free cashflow of $12.5 billion, buoyed by a strong operating performance and higher commodity prices. "A pretty solid result really. I think largely in line with what the market expected," said portfolio manager Andy Forster of Argo Investments in Melbourne. "Definitely the cash flow was strong, the dividend probably a bit stronger than what we expected."
A cut in productivity gains expected in fiscal 2019 - to $1 billion from a previously promised $2 billion - "slightly took the gloss off the results," he added, although the miner pledged to make the additional savings in 2020.
BHP also noted some cost creep due to geotechnical issues at its Queensland coal operations, rising fuel costs, and pockets of inflation in labour, but expected productivity gain to offset inflation.
"Across our dramatically simplified portfolio of tier one assets, we see this year's strong momentum carried into the medium term," said Chief Executive Andrew Mackenzie.
Shares in BHP slipped by 0.4 percent in morning trade to $A33.03 in line with a slightly lower Australian market
Including one-time charges, profit fell 37 percent to $3.71 billion.
These included a $2.8 billion post-tax charge from the sale of BHP's U.S. shale oil and gas assets in July which ended a disastrous seven-year foray into shale.
BHP said that it would not make a decision on how to return profits from the sale to investors until it was finalised.
The company also took a $650 million charge for the 2015 Samarco dam failure in Brazil that killed 19 people.
Total revenue rose 20 percent to $45.81 billion. Revenue from iron ore mining, BHP's biggest division, edged up 1.3 percent, while copper surged by nearly 60 percent backed by higher production from its Escondida mine in Chile.
Revenue from its petroleum division grew 14.5 percent on surging oil prices.
BHP said it cut net debt to $10.9 billion, at the lower end of its $10-15 billion target.
(Reporting by Melanie Burton; additional reporting by Rushil Dutta in Bengaluru; editing by Matthew Lewis and Richard Pullin)