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Earnings

Global miner BHP Group first-half profit falls 8% as copper earnings slump

CNBC.com with Reuters
Key Points
  • Underlying profit from continuing operations for the six months that ended on Dec. 31 fell to $4.03 billion from $4.40 billion a year ago, the company said in a statement.
  • That missed consensus estimates compiled by Vuma Financial of $4.209 billion.
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The world's biggest miner BHP Group said on Tuesday its first-half profit fell 8 percent as copper earnings slumped because of declining ore quality at its Escondida mine and a number of production outages globally.

Underlying profit from continuing operations for the six months that ended on Dec. 31 fell to $4.03 billion from $4.40 billion a year ago, the company said in a statement. That missed consensus estimates compiled by Vuma Financial of $4.209 billion.

"Profit is often the most difficult thing for people to forecast. We have had quite a number of tax settlements in the half and that changes our tax bill somewhat," Andrew Mackenzie, CEO of BHP Group, told CNBC's Karen Tso on Tuesday.

"I would say, apart from earnings, this in line or slightly better in line than what peopled forecasted," Mackenzie said.

Underlying profit is watched by analysts and investors as a measure of the company's performance exclusive of one-time gains and losses.

Iron ore price

Revenue from continuing operations rose 1 percent during the period to $20.74 billion.

Last month BHP said its second-quarter iron ore production fell 9 percent after it was forced to derail an iron ore-cargo train after it ran away en route to a key shipping hub.

Revenue from iron ore mining, its biggest division, rose by 2.7 percent, while copper revenues slumped 17.3 percent due to unplanned production outages at its Olympic Dam and Spence projects.

Peter Hendrie | Photographer's Choice | Getty Images 

"The iron ore price is volatile at the moment because of events in Brazil but we plan for the medium to long term and, with that, we feel that our forecasts are appropriate and our dividend is appropriate," Mackenzie said.

Earnings before income tax, depreciation and amortization from copper fell nearly 40 percent in the first half.

However, the miner slightly raised its 2019 copper production forecast to between about 1.6 million tonnes and 1.7 million tonnes.

"This has been a phenomenal year in terms of cash back to shareholders, $13 billion — that's a record for the half and of course that was enabled by the very successful sale of our onshore U.S. business," Mackenzie said.

BHP said it cut net debt to $9.9 billion during the period, below its $10 to $15 billion target.

BHP declared an interim dividend of $0.55 per share, the same as last year.

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