Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Billiton - fine but sitting on my hands

I have posted on BHP Billiton before (for the most recent link see here) and historically (using the UK quote) have used the £17-18 area as a pick-up point as I talked about at the above link. 

So what to make of the numbers that were released in Australia earlier today?  Well the shares rose 2% in Australian trading so clearly they were of, at least, a reasonable quality.  Certainly, as per below, most of the metrics were pointing in the right direction, assisted by lower capex. 

If you look at the results in more details, unsurprisingly price was a negative influence but volumes and controllable cost control were solid, leading to ebit progression

Otherwise, there were no real big changes to Billiton's strategy of focusing on its key mining/energy attributes around the world - note how (unsurprisingly) these are higher margin and offer higher production growth.  This undoubtedly remains the 'quality' angle for the company. 

From a commodity price perspective, I thought these two charts were of interest.  Lots of talk about the iron ore market moving into sustained surplus and the above seems to suggest that higher supply can be undertaken at a lower cost.  Copper again, at the margin, looks like a 2017 building deficit story - not so exciting for producers today.

I note that the presentation was quite quiet on the company's more controversial energy interests especially in the shale/related area.  Like potash their importance/focus has waned (and probably quite rightly so).
Given this - and as noted in recent write-ups of their peers especially Rio Tinto - dividends and related do matter.  I thought this chart was interesting.  Peers like Rio's are hiking their dividends faster at the moment but this reflects more historic volatility versus Billiton.  Either way, Billiton now yields 4.4% which is not shabby.  
 So what to think?  Well (to use the UK quote) the sub 1800p level has - as noted above - been an important one for me and this remains still a key level for me. 

Billiton numbers overall were solid enough but tactical traders can still sit on their hands and wait for sub 1800p again, as discussed on Twitter:

Well the miners have certainly delivered and all appear bullish medium-term. Good news but this also makes me nervous
to paraphrase Keynes, in med-term China can have variety outcomes. Divs/capex cuts only get miners so far if China stops buying

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