BHP Billiton (BLT LN) 1,583p, �86.7bn - H1 Production in line with guidance
• BHP reports that first half year production during the six months to 31st December was in line with production guidance and that, with a minor upward adjustment in the case of copper, guidance for the full year remains intact.
• Costs for the full year are also expected to meet guidance. Although up to December they were running at higher levels as a result of a combination of planned maintenance and unforeseen production disruption"stronger anticipated volumes in the second half of the year" are expected to bring them back on course during the second half of the year.
• Guidance for copper output has been increased slightly from the range 1620-1705kt to1645-1740kt reflecting the retention of the Cerro Colorado mine in Chile after "BHP and EMR Capital agreed to terminate their agreement for the sale and purchase of Cerro Colorado after it became clear that the financing conditions of the transaction would not be satisfied by the end of the 2018 calendar year."
• Elsewhere the copper operations at Spence have recovered from the fire during September and Olympic Dam has resumed normal operations following the planned maintenance at the smelter and the unplanned acid spill during August.
• Iron ore production "production increased by two per cent to 119 Mt (135 Mt on a 100 per cent basis). Guidance for the 2019 financial year remains unchanged at between 241 and 250 Mt, or between 273 and 283 Mt on a 100 per cent basis." Production was impacted by the planned maintenance schedule and by the widely reported rail disruption following the train derailment in November, offset by record output from Jimblebar and the recovery of Mt Whaleback following a fire during the previous period.
• Iron ore production guidance for the full year remains at 241-250mt for the full financial year and iron ore operations at Samarco remain suspended.
• BHP spent US$81m on exploration during the six-month period "predominantly focused on advancing copper targets within Chile, Ecuador, Peru, Canada, South Australia and the South-West United States."
• BHP highlights its investment in the Ecuador focussed, Solgold*, saying "Consistent with our exploration focus on copper, in September 2018, BHP acquired an initial 6.1 per cent interest in SolGold Plc (SolGold), the majority owner and operator of the Cascabel porphyry copper-gold project in Ecuador. On 15 October 2018, BHP entered into an agreement to acquire an additional 100 million shares in SolGold, for an investment of US$59 million, with our total interest now approximately 11.2 per cent."
• Conclusion: BHP is on track to meet its annual production guidance targets. Exploration focus is on copper and the company highlights its investment in Ecuador focussed Solgold.
* SP Angel acts as broker to Solgold