BHP Billiton’s fourth-quarter iron ore output gained 19 percent, beating analyst expectations, the world’s biggest mining company said yesterday, and it flagged increased production for the current financial year after expanding mines. It said production was 56.6 million tons in the three months to June, from 47.7 million tons a year earlier. That compares with the 48.9 million tons median estimate of four analysts surveyed. Rival Rio Tinto boosted ore output 11 percent in the period. Iron ore companies are racing to expand output even as the price fell 30 percent in the first half of this year, plunging the steelmaking ingredient into a bear market in March. The global supply increase has extended a global glut, trimming prices and forcing the closure of high-cost mines in China, the biggest producer and consumer. “The result shows that BHP Billiton’s strategy is working, with production up and costs down,” said Evan Lucas, a market strategist at IG. The shares gained 17c to R371.39 on the JSE yesterday. – Bloomberg