BHP Billiton intends to sell its nickel division despite its decision to invest $US43 million in boosting its capacity to meet demand created by the boom in electric vehicles.
In revealing that in the long term it will probably sell Nickel West, which operates in Western Australia, BHP is signalling that it is content to rely on its copper business for giving exposure to the increased demand for the materials that make batteries for green technologies such as electric vehicles.
BHP appears to be taking a more sober view of the looming battery rush than many of its rivals. Nickel West was stranded as an orphan asset after it was not included in BHP’s spin-off of South32. However, the company subsequently committed to it by boosting its processing capacity to meet the anticipated demand from the take-up of electric vehicles.
Peter Beaven, chief financial officer, said that BHP would continue to invest in Nickel West, which is among the group’s top performers from an operational, safety and technical perspective.
“Nickel West is never going to be a particularly large part of our portfolio but for now it’s one of those assets where it’s a good idea to hold and improve. I think ultimately it’s a sell but it’s a sell for value.”