Posts Tagged ‘bhp’

Negative signals for Chinese economy, will they take heed

CHINA STOCKS FALLWhile the Chinese economy expanded 8.9% in Q3, propped up by easy credit & continued government spending programmes, Europe, US & Japan continue to flounder. The world’s 3rd largest economy has recorded 7.7% overall growth in the first 9 months of 2009, with officials saying they are confident that the much talked about annual growth target of 8% will be acheived.

Last November, as it became clear that the global economy was heading into a recessionary period, central government implemented a 4 Trillion yuan/$586 Bn stimulus package, aimed at cushioning the blow of decreasing exports on the economy whilst also improving industrial efficiency at all levels. Via this stimulus package, China has implemented a number of schemes that impact practically all sectors in the economy;  real estate/construction, transportation infrastructure, agriculture, social services, industry, earthquake reconstruction, technology advancement & rural development being amongst those receiving special focus.

The strategy has paid off, with growth rising to 7.9% in Q2 from 6.1% in Q1 2009. Figures show that industrial output has risen 8.7% in the first three quarters of the year, and 12.4% in July-September, which would seem to signal accelerated demand from domestic purchasers, keen to take advantage of low cost loans to invest in the expected turranround for China in 2010.

However, while surging purchases of coal, iron ore & other raw materials have helped mining majors such as Vale & BHP Billiton the impact of China’s comeback has mainly been one of improving global sentiment than of actually driving growth, according to Stephen Green, economist for Standard Chartered Bank in Shanghai.

“Exports remain the key weakness for the Chinese economy,” Moody’s Economy.com economist Alaistair Chan said in a report yesterday.

Our view is that it is time for those investing in China to pay attention to people like Chan, as investment via the stimulus package has accounted for nearly 88% of GDP growth this year. Central government  investment in factories, construction & national infrastructure has risen by one third in the first three quarters of this year to a record 15.5 trillion yuan (US$2.27 trillion).

As the economy “flourishes”, this heavy reliance on public works & other investments could be masking long term issues for the Chinese economy. Impressive as China’s ability to ride out the storm has been, companies desperately need to restart exports to offset the economies depenfdance on fiscal hand outs.

This week China’s leaders have also  signalled concern over these obvious imbalances in the economy, with the State Council saying policy must shift to dealing with waste and other associated problems of high growth.

“In the first three quarters, the pace of economic growth quickened,” the State Council said “At the same time, we also are clearly aware that there are still difficulties and problems in the economic and social development of our country.”

So it looks as though there are a number of challenges ahead for China in the near future. The stimulus package has obviously been deployed in a much more effective manner than in Europe & the US, however China has not had the crippling effects of masssive credit & huge write downs in it’s nascent financial sector. Although the Chinese have made a number of efforts to open new markets through bilateral trade agreements & an accelerated FTA programme with neighbouring countries in Asia & it’s BRIC partners, it cannot fully offset the real factor of dependancy on Western markets indefinitely.

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Olympic Dam upgrades & expansion crucial to BHPs future operations


bhp logo

Mining giant BHP Billiton has announced revised figures that significantly upgrade the reclaimable reserves for its flagship Olympic Dam operation in southern Australia.

New figures released by BHP (NYSE:BHP) point to a 22% increase from 284 thousand tonnes to 347.5 thousand tonnes of of U3O8, due to mineral re-classification as operational drilling taps into larger sources. BHP has correspondingly upgraded the operational lifetime of Olympic Dam from 43 to 54 years.

Olympic Dam is arguably BHP’s most valuable asset, as it is a multi-mineral source combining the world’s 4th largest copper deposit, 5th largest gold deposit & significant amounts of silver. It is also currently the world’s largest single uranium ore deposit.

With a production level of 3344tU last year, Olypic Dam is placed 4th in extraction levels for uranium, BHP are now looking to expand the size of their operations on this site. At present, all mining activities are conducted underground, however, BHP has submitted an expansion plan to local government that would see open pit miningf being introduced to the site. With government expected to make a preliminary decion on the expansion project next year, this is a critical time for BHP, as the following chart illustrates.

Olypic_Dam

In an earlier post, we discussed the impact of Sino energy requirements on Australian miners, as the Chinese are heavily commited to reducing pollution & are searching for cleaner energy sources to power their expanding economic requirements. In April this year, Chinese officials announced they would start building five extra power plants this year on top of the 24 already under construction & 11 already in operation.

“There are not enough uranium resources in China to support the aggressive nuclear power development plan for the next 20-30 years,” said Professor Liu Deshun, of China’s Institute of Nuclear and New Energy Technology. “Australia has the uranium resources that could be exported and in China we have the demand”

Earlier this year, BHP managed to successfully expand into the Yeelirrie deposit in Western Australia, which is estimated to  have a 10 to 12-year lifespan and a resource of 35,000 tonnes of uranium,  as a result of the Western Australian government lifting a six year old ban on uranium extraction in the state. With this prescedent & also the ability to secure long term supply contracts to China, Australian Minister for Resources, Martin Ferguson, has indicated the Federal Government was unlikely to stand in the way, subject to environmental and investment tests.

In the short term, this could also have a large knock on effect on the share price of some of it’s key competitors, namely Freeport McMoRan & Rio Tinto. Rio is also a top producer of uranium ore, with it’s Ranger Mine in Kakadu, which currently supplies 10% of global requirements, any uplift in BHP’s production capacity is sure to impact that figure.

More interestingly for me, there has been much speculation that BHP could be looking to acquire Freeport McMoRan (NYSE:FCX)  in order to bolster their gold & copper production, however, referring to the anticipated production uplift in both of these commodities if the expansion plan is successful, why would BHP Billiton look at dishing out more than $27 Bn, when they could integrate on an existing site?

The Australian government is also more likely to sponsor the expansion project in my point of view, as it will keep the majority of that cash pile invested in the country & help to secure more than 15,000 jobs directly & indirectly for the lifetime of Olypic Dam. Perhaps readers of the WSJ should think a little more on geo-political terms when voting on nonsensical polls.

Original editorial at MyStockVoice.com

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BHP & Rio Tinto to extract billion dollar contracts as well as uranium

australian-flagAustralia could be looking at a new multibillion-dollar export market as China looks for a steady supply of uranium, which it needs to underpin a massive expansion in its nuclear power industry. Chinese officials this week announced they would start building five extra power plants this year on top of the 24 already under construction and 11 already in operation. Australia could add A$17 billion ($12 billion) to gross domestic product by 2030 by maximizing suppliers to meet rising global demand for nuclear energy, the Uranium Association said last month.

The acceleration of China’s nuclear programme stems from mounting concerns about climate change, energy security and the more immediate task of kick-starting the economy as part of the Government’s 4 trillion yuan stimulus plan.

Vice-Premier Zhang Dejiang announced at a Beijing conference this week that China would “accelerate the development of nuclear power and increase the ratio of clean energies like nuclear power”.

Analysts say the country’s dearth of uranium is “the tiger in the road” to fulfilling its nuclear power ambitions and that Australia is the most obvious solution.

“There are not enough uranium resources in China to support the aggressive nuclear power development plan for the next 20-30 years,” said Professor Liu Deshun, of China’s Institute of Nuclear and New Energy Technology. “Australia has the uranium resources that could be exported and in China we have the demand,”

Chinese companies are lining up to invest directly in Australian uranium mining & exploration companies and have begun signing long-term supply contracts with Australia’s established mining companies, betting on the expansion plans receiving Government approval.

Australian Minister for Resources, Martin Ferguson, indicated the Federal Government was unlikely to stand in the way, subject to environmental and investment tests. Today, ERA (Energy Resources Australia), a Rio Tinto (NYSE : RTP) subsidiary, is expected to say more about a new plant to extract uranium from low-grade ore and an exploration pit for the expansion of its Ranger Mine in Kakadu, which already produces 10% of the world’s uranium.

Next week BHP Billiton (NYSE : BHP) will move a step closer to a massive expansion of its Olympic Dam mine in South Australia, the world’s biggest proven uranium reserve , with the release of an environmental impact assessment. Extending into the Yeelirrie deposit in Western Australia, which is estimated to  have a 10 to 12-year lifespan and a resource of 35,000 tonnes of uranium, will put BHP at the head of the pack, when it comes to talks with the Chinese buyers. This as a result of the WA government lifting a siy year ban on uranium extraction in the state.

Chinese analysts have said the country’s nuclear power expansion plans will not succeed unless China secures the necessary uranium supplies. Australian analysts say the local mine expansions are unlikely to proceed without the certainty provided by long-term supply contracts to China.

“The two go hand in hand,” said John Wilson, uranium analyst at Resource Capital Research.

Uranium was trading at $41 per lb yesterday & now analysts are benchmarking the yellow cake as being able to reach the $70 per lb mark in the near future.