BHP Billiton has more than halved its dividend and rearranged its top executive ranks after a six-month period in which it sank to a $US5.7 billion net loss and underlying profits slumped to their lowest levels in decades.
The miner slashed its payout to US16¢ dividend – the lowest since February 2005 – from US62¢ this time last year, as it posted a $US412 million underlying profit, well below market expectations for a profit closer to $US727 million.
The progressive dividend policy has been axed and will be replaced by a system that pays out 50 per cent of underlying attributable profits each half. It is the first time BHP has cut its dividend since 1988.
BHP shares have surged by 3.2 per cent in morning trade on Tuesday, and are not touching their highest price since January 4.
As recently as six months ago, BHP was insisting it had the capacity on its balance sheet to “defend” its progressive dividend, which was guaranteed not to fall.
But BHP chief executive Andrew Mackenzie said the continuing slide in commodity prices, particularly oil prices, prompted Tuesday’s change.