BHP Billiton shareholders voted 98.05% in favor of the company’s proposed demerger of certain assets into a new company named South32 during simultaneous shareholder general meetings in London, England, and Perth, Australia, on May 6. The demerger was scheduled to be fully effective before the end of May.
As a result of the demerger, eligible BHP shareholders received one South32 share for each BHP Billiton share held. The South32 shares trade on the Australian, London, and Johannesburg stock exchanges. South32’s head office is located in Perth, and a regional head office and global shared services center is located in Johannesburg, South Africa. Graham Kerr, who was formerly BHP Billiton’s CFO, is the new company’s CEO.
BHP Billiton first announced its plans for the demerger in August 2014 and in mid-March 2015 issued documents to shareholders that offered a detailed rationale in support of the demerger (E&MJ, April 2015, p. 4). Assets devolving to South32 included the Worsley alumina refinery in Western Australia: the Hillside, South Africa, and Mozal, Mozambique, aluminum smelters; Illawarra Coal in New South Wales, Australia; manganese mines in Australia’s Northern Territory and South Africa; manganese alloy producers in Tasmania, Australia, and South Africa; the Cannington silver-lead-zinc mine in Queensland, Australia; and the Cerro Matoso laterite nickel mine and ferro-nickel smelter in Colombia.
In 2014, South32 assets generated pro forma revenue of $8.3 billion and pro forma underlying earnings of $446 million.
Following the demerger, BHP Billiton’s minerals portfolio is focused on six major operated assets: Western Australia Iron Ore, Queensland Coal, New South Wales Energy Coal, and Olympic Dam copper in Australia, and the Escondida and Pampa Norte copper mines in Chile. The company continues to invest in its Jansen potash project in Saskatchewan, Canada, and retains non-operated joint-venture interests in Antamina copper, Peru; Cerrejón energy coal, Colombia; and Samarco iron ore, Brazil.
BHP Billiton’s petroleum unit has significant positions in the Gulf of Mexico, onshore in the United States, and in Australia. The company also has petroleum assets in the United Kingdom, Trinidad and Tobago, and Pakistan.