May 14, 2017 / 2:10 PM / in 8 months

Australia's BHP heads back to roots, drops Billiton from its name

SYDNEY (Reuters) - One of the last reminders of a merger 16 years ago that created the world’s biggest mining house will be erased on Monday when BHP Billiton changes its name back to just BHP.

Dropping the Billiton reflects a move to simplify its corporate structure, the company said, and return to its founding roots in Australia more than a century ago, when it was known as Broken Hill Proprietary Co Ltd.

BHP, which has operations in 25 countries, will retain its dual listings in Australia and London.

BHP head of external affairs Geoff Healy dismissed suggestions that the name-cropping is in response to a call by activist shareholder Elliott Management for the miner to scrap its dual-listing mechanism in Sydney and London and spin off assets, specifically its U.S. shale oil unit. “There is zero connection with Elliott’s proposals,” Healy said. “We’ve been doing this for 18 months.”

The company is spending an initial A$10 million ($7.4 million) on an advertising campaign in Australia to promote the shortened name.

The merger of BHP and South African mining house Billiton in June 2001 created a company with an initial enterprise value of $38 billion. The joining, however, came to be widely regarded by analysts as value-destructive, even during the China-fueled boom years at the end of the last decade.

Most of the original Billiton assets were included in a 2015 spin-off, South32, and no longer contribute to the company’s bottom line. South32 was initially derided as a compilation of BHP Billiton’s most unwanted assets, but it has frequently outperformed the parent company.

($1 = 1.3528 Australian dollars)

Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Tom Hogue

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