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Anglo-Australian mining multinational BHP anticipates a net demand loss due to the coronavirus Covid-19 outbreak in China unless the widespread disease is contained by the end of next month.
The company expects to revise its expectations for economic and commodity demand growth downwards if the virus is not demonstrably well contained.
The death toll from the virus has reached 1,873, with 98 new deaths in China, and the number of infection cases has increased to 73,000 worldwide as of the end of 17 February. The total number of disease recoveries stood at 12,552.
BHP CEO Mike Henry said: “We delivered a strong set of half-year results, grounded in solid operational performance. Underlying EBITDA was up 15%, to $12bn, and return on capital employed increased, to 19%.
“Despite near-term uncertainty – due to the coronavirus outbreak, trade policy and geopolitics – we remain convinced about the positive underlying fundamentals of our commodities. We see enormous potential to reliably deliver exceptional financial and operational performance, and to grow value and returns.”
The company declared an interim dividend of 65 cents a share, which it said was its second-highest return to investors so far.
BHP said in a statement: “The dividend reflects the solid cash flow generated in the period, caution due to near-term market volatility driven by the 2019 coronavirus disease outbreak, trade policy and geopolitics, and our preference for net debt to be at the bottom end of the $12 to $17bn target range.”