* BHP lifts full-year iron ore guidance by 5 million tonnes
* Says cyclonic weather over last quarter had little impact
* March quarter iron ore output up 1 pct vs Dec quarter
(Adds detail on iron ore, copper, oil, copper, quote)
By James Regan
SYDNEY, April 16 BHP Billiton
is lifting its iron ore production this year to capture more of
the Chinese market for the steelmaking ingredient, amid strong
competition from rivals in Australia and Brazil.
The world's biggest mining company on Wednesday lifted
full-year iron ore production guidance by 5 million tonnes to
217 million as it pushes ahead with new mine work in Australia.
That's still behind BHP's Australian rival, Rio Tinto
, which is close to mining 300 million tonnes a
year and Rio de Janeiro-based Vale which is targeting
annual output of more than 360 million tonnes.
China imports more than a half-billion tonnes of iron ore
annually to supplement domestic production of mostly lower-grade
ore. China's crude steel production rate of some 2 million tonne
a day makes it by far the biggest consumer of iron ore.
Output from BHP's most profitable division rose 1 pct to
49.6 million tonnes in the three months ended March 31 versus
the previous quarter, and rose 23 percent against the year-ago
period, BHP said in its latest production report.
BHP said the lift in output was helped by a limited impact
from cyclonic weather in Australia's Pilbara iron ore belt in
January and expansion work underway at the company's new
Rio Tinto this week blamed an 8 percent fall in quarterly
iron ore shipments on heavy rains and winds from cyclone
Christie that disrupted its transport and shipping operations.
BHP also maintained its full-year copper production guidance
at 1.7 million tonnes on a 100 percent basis with joint venture
partners, or 1.2 million tonnes for its share.
The company has already said its copper production in the
second half would be weighted towards the June 2014 quarter.
The miner also said higher productivity and commissioning of
a new mine in Australia's Queensland state had led to an upward
revision to fiscal 2014 metallurgical coal production to 43.5
BHP Managing Director Andrew Mackenzie said capital and
exploration spending was on track to fall by 25 percent this
year and decline further next year, as the company refocuses on
businesses with the greatest profit potential.
"By maintaining strict financial discipline and a focus on
our four pillars of iron ore, copper, coal and petroleum, we
continue to believe that an average rate of return greater than
20 percent is achievable for our major development options,"
Mackenzie said in a statement.
The company cut its fiscal 2014 guidance for petroleum
products by 5 million barrels to 245 million barrels of oil
equivalent, reflecting divestments during the last quarter.
(Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Andre Grenon and Ed