* CEO hunt could take 1 to 2 years - FT
* CEO Kloppers in top job since October 2007
* No reason to replace Kloppers yet - investors
* BHP shares flat
MELBOURNE, Nov 7 Top global miner BHP Billiton
Ltd has started hunting for a new chief executive in a
process that could take one to two years, the Financial Times
reported on Wednesday.
The search to replace Chief Executive Marius Kloppers, who
has been in the job for five years, was being led by Chairman
Jac Nasser, the newspaper said.
BHP declined to comment on the specifics in the report, but
said succession planning was ongoing and a key task for the
"BHP Billiton's board has always ensured that it has a
well-integrated, continual succession process in place for our
most senior executives," the company said in a statement emailed
The company has not turned to an outsider for the top job
since tapping American Paul Anderson in late 1998.
The report raised eyebrows among some investors who see no
need for the company to replace the 50-year-old Kloppers.
"He's been quite a powerful CEO over the years. Some
commentators may think otherwise, but I think on balance he's
done a sensational job," said Paul Xiradis, managing director of
Ausbil, which, like most Australian investment funds, owns
shares in BHP.
Kloppers led the company through the global financial
crisis, with BHP weathering the storm with the strongest balance
sheet among the biggest global miners.
Xiradis also praised Kloppers for streamlining the company
and almost single-handedly overhauling pricing in the iron
market from annual contracts to much more transparent daily
But the South African has faced criticism for failing to
clinch three major bids he launched -- a full takeover of rival
Rio Tinto , a merger with Rio Tinto's iron ore
business and a bid for Canada's Potash Corp -- and then
splashing $17 billion on two shale gas takeovers in the United
States just before gas prices slumped.
Kloppers gave up his bonus this year after BHP took a $2.8
billion charge on the value of its shale gas assets.
"I think the biggest, more general mistake, was not focusing
on their own businesses enough and looking externally at what
they could do," said a portfolio manager at an Australian fund,
who declined to be named because he did not want to add to
speculation about the top job.
He said that if BHP had concentrated on developing its own
iron ore assets in Western Australia rather than chasing a deal
with Rio Tinto, it would not be facing competition now from
Fortescue Metals Group.
"Fortescue went and took leases out from under their noses,"
the fund manager said.
BHP took on a new chief financial officer earlier this year
after CFO Alex Vanselow quit, a decision that was seen at the
time as a sign that no one was going to get a run at Kloppers'
job anytime soon.
"There's no reason to get rid of him at this stage," said
Tim Schroeders, a portfolio manager at Pengana Capital.
Shares of BHP were flat on Wednesday morning, against a 0.2
percent rise in the broader market.