China still key driver for BHP: Nasser

Miner's chairman sees Chinese growth above 7% in year ahead, confident of US recovery despite the risks of unwinding stimulus.

BHP Billiton (BHP) expects Chinese growth to come in at over 7% in the year ahead, and has backed the new Chinese government to pursue reforms that will support long-term growth.

BHP chairman Jac Nasser told shareholders at the miner's annual general meeting in Perth, China and other emerging economies will be the major drivers of global economic growth in the long term, which could deliver up to a 75% increase in demand for some commodities over the next 15 years.

"Only a few countries in the world are well placed to supply this increased demand for commodities, and Australia is one of them.

Mr Nasser said as a result BHP was "well positioned to contribute to the prosperity of the regions where we operate, including Australia."

Mr Nasser said China, which accounts for around 30% of BHP's revenue, was experiencing weaker trade and softer manufacturing activity, which was reflected in the miner's financial results.

"However, despite slowing slightly, China’s growth remains an important driver for our industry," he said.

Mr Nasser said he was "confident of the continued recovery in the US despite some risk from the unwinding of monetary stimulus".

BHP made a profit of $US10.9 billion in the 2012/13 financial year, a drop of 30% from the previous year due to weaker commodity prices.

The company has cut costs and spending in response to price falls, and aimed to extract more value from its existing operations.

The company's production in the first quarter of the 2013/14 financial year was higher than analysts had expected.

Chief executive Andrew Mackenzie told BHP's general meeting that production would increase by 8% in the coming two years.

"We are increasing our focus on our four pillars - iron ore, petroleum, copper, and coal, and we continue to operate our aluminium, manganese and nickel businesses as efficiently as possible," he said.

Firmly rooted in Australia

Mr Mackenzie said BHP Billiton is, and always has been, a company firmly rooted in Australia, noting the miner was the nation's largest taxpayer.

"In the last financial year, we generated approximately 70% of our profits and paid more than US$9 billion in taxes and royalties in Australia.

"Each year we spend over US$19 billion in Australia, supporting more than 9,000 local businesses.

"Australia is also home to our largest shareholder base and we estimate that seven and a half million Australian superannuation accounts are invested in about US$20 billion of BHP Billiton shares.

"Which means we are owned by millions of everyday Australians."

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