BHP may return capital: UBS

Asset sales, commodity prices may allow miner to return cash within two years.

BHP Billiton (BHP) could return capital to shareholders through share buybacks within two years if asset sales and commodity prices allow the miner rapidly reduce debt levels, the Australian reports.

The newspaper, citing a UBS report, says chief executive Andrew Mackenzie told analysts that a $US25 billion ($277.7 billion) net debt level would allow the company to grow and maintain its spending.

Anything below this would signal capital returns, according to UBS analyst Glyn Lawcock.

Mr Lawcock said BHP's net debt, which currently stands at $US29.1 billion, would fall below the threshold in 2014-15 based on cash-flow and capital commitment forecasts.

"However, asset sales and better-than-expected commodity prices could pull this date forward," Mr Lawcock said.

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