Tag Archives: BHP Billiton

BHP investors: hold on to your seatbelts, you’re in for a bumpy ride

This week, Mike van Dulken and Augustin Eden from Accendo Markets warn that BHP Billiton investors should brace themselves for legal action of BP proportions…

BHP Billiton (BLT) is this week underperforming a similarly weak commodity sector, one which is already under the cosh from a US dollar rebound, an oil price turning over from its highs and persistent global growth concerns after the latest China data sapping investor sentiment. The reason Billiton’s faring worse than its peers stems from news of a $44bn civil legal challenge from Brazilian federal prosecutors related to last November’s Samarco dam failure. That in itself may appear to be a minor driver. It’ll be sorted out soon, won’t it?

Er, well, something similar happened to BP about six years ago and this has quite rightly spooked investors, who would now appear to be pricing in the prospect of long and protracted litigation akin to that which BP only put to bed in July last year – a whole five years and $53.8bn after its 2010 Deepwater Horizon Gulf of Mexico disaster!

The claim against BHP Billiton relates to clean-up costs for waterways and villages, community rebuilding and compensation for the deaths of 19 people and resulting homelessness inflicted on a further 700. Sound familiar?

While BP worked tirelessly to limit the impact (both environmental and financial) of its disaster, several attempts to close the affair failed, and now a fresh legal challenge for BHP Billiton sees its situation echoing that endured by BP. The March 2016 settlement between BHP Billiton, its domestic partner Vale and the Brazilian government was potentially just the beginning of a long road. While there remains the possibility that such an imposing precedent as BP’s Gulf of Mexico disaster is inflating the claim against BHP, one can’t help but see investors take flight at the prospect of added risk in an already risky sector.

Sure, the Brazilian government has form for demanding initially huge reparations for environmental disasters before conveniently reducing them, and a smaller settlement may well be agreed for BHP and its Samarco colleagues. But there is no guarantee of this. Then again, this is Brazil, where the president faces impeachment and replacement by any one of a number of equally dubious cronies.

BHP shares are still holding their uptrend from 2016 lows. Just. However, after giving up 50 per cent of their 2016 gains (now up just 40 per cent YTD vs highs of 80 per cent on 21 April), we have to wonder whether an already difficult situation could get even messier.

This commentary was provided exclusively for Hot Commodity by Accendo Markets: https://www.accendomarkets.com.

Glencore’s update is better than expected, but miners are set for more pain

On a day like this, Glencore must still be plagued with shopper’s remorse over its badly timed acquisition of miner Xstrata back in 2013. The deal added masses of mining operations to the commodities trader’s business, which have struggled in the commodities price rout.

But the company, which is making grand efforts to reduce its staggering $30bn (£19.8bn) debt pile, today surprised the market with a more ambitious than expected plan to cut its borrowing and hopefully save its treasured investment grade credit rating.

It has increased its debt reduction measures to $13bn, up from $10.2bn, and has a new net debt target of $18-19bn by the end of 2016, an improvement from its previous target of low $20s bn.

It says it has $8.7bn of these cuts already locked in.

Safe to say, the market loved it. Glencore, which has seen its share price plunge by almost three quarters on the FTSE 100 index this year, gained 14 per cent by mid-morning trading.

“Glencore is well placed to continue to be cash generative in the current environment –
and at even lower prices,” said boss Ivan Glasenberg. “We retain a high degree of flexibility and will continue to review the need to act further as required.”

But will Glencore’s efforts be enough? With slowed growth in China and the eurozone severely denting demand, everyone can speculate but noone quite knows just how far commodities prices could fall. As Ivan suggests, there may be a need for Glencore to act further. I certainly do not think this will be the last of it. How can it be, when there is no end in sight to weak pricing?

As for the other miners, Anglo American made its own savage cuts earlier this week, shedding 85,000 staff, with all eyes on BHP Billiton to make the next move.

It seems likely that the latter will follow Glencore and Anglo and suspend its dividend as part of its cost cuts. The sector is hemorrhaging money and nothing seems quite big enough to stem the flow…