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BHP upbeat on economic prospects

BHP Billiton has predicted the recent signs of economic improvement in the US will continue, in an upbeat assessment of the global economy.

BHP Billiton has predicted the recent signs of economic improvement in the US will continue, in an upbeat assessment of the global economy.

Australia's biggest company said the improvement in the US and the changing focus of the Chinese economy meant the world should witness "more balanced" growth over the coming decade, even if structural problems persisted in Europe.

But the multinational miner warned risks remained, including those posed by possible changes to monetary policy in the US.

Despite gas prices improving in the US - where BHP now owns close to $US20 billion worth of shale operations - BHP said it expected prices for iron ore and coal to be weighed down over coming years by the sharp increase in supply.

"We maintain a positive outlook over the long term as the fundamentals of wealth creation, demographics and urbanisation continue to create demand for commodities across Asia and other markets," chairman Jac Nasser said.

BHP revealed that the development of its US shale business was set for a minor change of tack, specifically in Texas' highly prospective Permian basin.

Continued work in the region has found the Permian should no longer be thought of as a single business unit, because the areas that were prospective for shale oil were geographically disparate and could not share common infrastructure.

BHP has always cautioned that the path to development of the Permian would be uncertain, as little was known about it until companies like BHP and Shell moved in recently.

BHP will next week farewell the man that approved the US shale acquisitions, when former chief executive Marius Kloppers departs the company on October 1.

Mr Kloppers was paid $US16 million in fiscal 2013, but will not take a farewell payment when he leaves the company. Most details around BHP's executive pay for fiscal 2013 were already known, but publication on Wednesday of the miner's annual report has completed the picture by reporting incentive payments and other details.

Mr Kloppers' package was dominated by performance-based payments, with long-term rewards delivering him $US10.4 million.

Short-term incentives yielded him a further $US2.9 million, on top of his base salary and pension.

Sources suggested Mr Kloppers had deliberately kept a low profile around the company in recent months, in a bid to give his successor Andrew Mackenzie clear air to implement his changes. It is not yet clear what he will do next, with some expecting him to avoid corporate roles until at least the end of the 2014 financial year.

Despite moving on from BHP, Mr Kloppers will still have a lot of his wealth wrapped up in the company, given he holds about $13.5 million of the Australian shares plus 11.7 million pounds of the company's London shares.

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