Andrew Mackenzie

Melbourne -

The world's biggest miner, BHP Billiton, has reported a better-than-expected half-year profit of $8.1-billion, helped by cost cutting.

BHP's shareholders could participate in a company share buyback in six months.

Chief executive Andrew Mackenzie on Tuesday said net debt should be down to $25-billion within months, a level he has previously said could trigger a capital return.

BHP's profit for the July-December half year increased to $8.1-billion from $4.4-billion a year earlier.

Stripping out a one-time $346-million gain from selling a US copper mine, profit was a higher than forecast $7.8-billion. - Sapa-AP