Marius Kloppers, BHP Billiton Chief Executive. Photo: Reuters
Marius Kloppers, BHP Billiton Chief Executive. Photo: Reuters
JOHANESSBURG - BHP Billiton shareholders received a shot in the arm after the group declared a record final dividend and pledged more outlay for shareholders in the future.

The group said yesterday that it would pay 63 US cents (R9.19) a share after it reported a 33 percent surge in underlying net profit to $8.93billion - its biggest since the 2013 financial year.

In total, the group said it would pay dividends of $6.3bn, including an additional amount of $1.8bn above the minimum payout policy.

Chief executive Andrew Mackenzie said the group would also use the net proceeds of the $10.8bn disposal of its US onshore shale assets to line up shareholders pockets.

“We have announced a record final dividend for shareholders, which reflects strong operating performance, solid prices and capital discipline,” Mackenzie said.

“With net debt now at the low end of the target range, a higher proportion of future free cash flow is expected to be returned to shareholders.”

Scottish-born Mackenzie, who replaced South African businessman Marius Kloppers at the helm of the world’s largest mining company since in 2013, said he intended to stay in the position.

The group in July sold its US onshore oil and shale gas business to energy giant BP and Merit Energy for $10bn.

The resources giant had bought the assets for nearly $20bn in 2011 at the height of the oil boom.

The Australian headquartered firm saw its share price shed 3.19 percent to R297.25 on the local bourse, valuing the group at more than R640bn.

The group’s share price has leaped 26.23 percent in the past six months on the back of higher commodity prices.

 It shore up its balance sheet in the year under review and cut its net debt to $10.9bn, from $16.3bn in the comparative period. 

The company said that it expected its net debt to remain at the lower end of its target range while commodity prices are strong.

BHP Billiton shares closed 3.19percent lower at R297.25 on the JSE yesterday.

- BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE