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Mining giant hits new production highs

China's booming economy and strong demand for commodities were once again reflected in BHP Billiton's record annual production results today. 

The world's largest miner said it had achieved yearly production records in natural gas, aluminium, copper, nickel, iron ore and other commodities.  

Production of copper, for example, rose 7% to 1.25m tonnes in the year to the end of June 2007. The last quarter of the year saw a 17% rise in production compared with the same time last year.

Oil production, though, fell 1% in the last three months of the 2006/7 financial year, meaning production was flat year-on-year.

Analysts said the overall production results, although in line with expectations, would lead to record annual results, with net profit estimated at around $13.5bn (£6.55bn) to just over $14bn. BHP reports its full-year results on August 22.  

Analysts continued to mention a potential BHP bid for the US aluminium group Alcoa, after Rio Tinto's $38bn bid for Alcan left Alcoa vulnerable to predator interest.  

Sources close to the situation have played down the possibility of a bid for Alcoa, but analysts say it could still go ahead. BHP's strong cash position means it will almost certainly try to acquire a significant asset, at a time when world-class assets around the world are fast dwindling.

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