BHP’s Andrew Mackenzie: A new chief, a new direction – by Paul Waldie (Globe and Mail – February 20, 2013)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

LONDON — The new chief executive of mining giant BHP Billiton PLC says mergers and acquisitions will not be a major part of his strategy.

Andrew Mackenzie, who is taking over as chief executive officer from Marius Kloppers, said during a media conference call Wednesday that his main priority will be to “run our very impressive ore bodies extremely well.” He added that while BHP won’t completely rule out mergers, they are “not central to my strategy.” Instead, he plans to concentrate on cutting costs and improving the company’s “capital discipline.”

BHP announced late Tuesday that Mr. Kloppers will resign in May after a near 20-year career at the miner including nearly six as CEO. He had come under pressure recently for sharp writedowns of some assets and a couple of failed takeovers including a $40-billion (U.S.) bid for Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc. in 2010 which was thwarted by the Canadian government.

Mr. Kloppers, 50, said during the conference call Wednesday that the decision to leave was difficult but he that he felt “the time is right to pass the baton to Andrew.” He added that he was leaving with pride at what he had accomplished at BHP. And he said he has no plans after leaving BHP beyond returning to his native South Africa for a while.

His departure comes as BHP reported a 57-per-cent drop in profit for the first half of it fiscal year, the period ending December 31, 2012. Net profit fell to $4.24-billion (U.S.) from $9.94-billion in the same period a year earlier.

Revenue decreased by 14 per cent to $32.20-billion, mainly due to plummeting prices for many commodities. BHP mines a wide variety of minerals but its biggest sources of revenue now come from iron ore, oil and gas.

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