'Global Australian' lifts US presence with New York address

If they can make it there, BHP Billiton can make it anywhere.

If they can make it there, BHP Billiton can make it anywhere.

The company that likes to be seen as "the global Australian" has quietly established a corporate office in New York as part of its growing profile in North America.

Despite being the world's biggest miner, BHP has traditionally had a low profile in the US, where for years its biggest asset was a non-operating stake in several Gulf of Mexico oil rigs.

But the past two years have seen BHP dramatically increase its presence, first with the $US20 billion push into US shale gas in 2011, and more recently with the commitment to build a multibillion-dollar potash mine in Canada.

BusinessDay understands a Manhattan office was established last year. Increasingly, it serves as a working space for travelling executives and for chairman Jac Nasser, who has a home in Michigan.

As recently as last year's annual report, there was no mention of BHP having an office in New York, but that may be because the office does not serve as a control centre for any of its product groups.

BHP's shale and Gulf of Mexico operations are run out of an office in Houston, Texas.

New York is home to many big institutional investors and is also where BHP has two American depositary receipt listings on the New York Stock Exchange.

Confirmation of the New York office comes as BHP prepares to move into its new global headquarters on Melbourne's Collins Street.

The company, which has inhabited a building in Lonsdale Street for more than nine years, is expected to have its 360 Melbourne employees in the new Collins Street address within weeks.

BHP will be the major tenant at the refurbished 171 Collins Street address, on what is believed to be a 10-year lease.

BHP is compelled to have its global headquarters in Australia, under the terms of a foreign investment ruling handed down in 2001 when BHP merged with Billiton.

The ruling also dictates BHP's chief executive and chief financial officer must reside in Australia.

While Melbourne will retain the bragging rights as BHP's global headquarters, the company's new building in Perth ranks as the biggest gathering of BHP staff under one roof.

Despite regular speculation that BHP might one day shift its global headquarters to Perth or another Australian city, chief executive Andrew Mackenzie has indicated he has no intention of uprooting the company from Melbourne, which he describes as the global centre of mining.

"You do realise that so much is happening around the Pacific, and with a bias to the south, that previously happened around the Atlantic," he said in May. "And Australia is absolutely key to that. I find it much more the centre of things."

BHP shares rose 48ยข to $35.64 on Monday.

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