(Refiles to insert dropped letter in BHP in headline)
PERTH, Australia, March 9 BHP Billiton Ltd
, the world's largest miner, is concentrating on about
10 assets as it looks for opportunities to divest to cut debt
and simplify the business, the company said on Saturday.
"Consistent with our commitment to simplify the portfolio,
we continue to selectively pursue asset divestment
opportunities, with a firm focus on value," spokeswoman Eleanor
The statement came in response to a report in the Australian
newspaper that cited BHP Chief Financial Officer Graham Kerr as
telling analysts in a closed-door briefing this week that the
company was focussing on the potential to sell at least 10 of
the company's assets.
Kerr did not identify the assets but told those at the
briefing that oil and gas assets were the easiest to sell, the
"It's approximately 10 assets," Nichols told Reuters. "Any
decision to divest an asset will be announced to the market."
Last month, BHP told workers at the Gregory-Crinum coking
coal mine in central Queensland that it was considering the
potential sale of the mine, which is part of the BHP-Mitsubishi
Australia joint venture.
Miners are now focussed on squeezing the most out of their
best assets after coming under pressure from investors for
splashing out on expensive projects and acquisitions and
allowing costs to spiral out of control in the boom years.
Last month, BHP reported a 43 percent slump in first-half
profit to $5.68 billion - its worst profit drop in more than a
decade - and took $3 billion in writedowns on its aluminium and
BHP last year shelved $40 billion in projects and shut some
loss-making coal mines, as the whole industry battled with
soaring costs, a strong Australian dollar and sliding commodity
(Reporting by Morag MacKinnon; Editing by Robert Birsel)