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BHP Billiton Eyes Window Of Opportunity In Iron Ore -CEO

LONDON -(Dow Jones)- Globally diversified miner BHP Billiton Ltd (BHP) sees a "window of opportunity" in the iron ore market as emerging economies such as China transition from investment-led economic growth to consumption-led economic growth. China, the world's largest steel producer and consumer, is forecast to increase crude steel production to 1.1 billion metric tons a year by 2025 which would equate to a 650 million ton a year increase in global seaborne iron ore demand, Marius Kloppers, the chief executive of the world's largest mining company by market value, said in a presentation given to an audience at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch conference in Florida, Tuesday. "The outlook provides a major opportunity for BHP Billiton and our competitors," he said in the presentation. Kloppers reaffirmed previous comments made by BHP executive Alberto Calderon two weeks ago, noting that projects would be approved "in a sequence that maximizes value, reduces risk and balances short- and long-term returns." BHP has been dogged by concerns that a series of giant projects will increasingly consume its cash and may offer weak returns, as its earnings growth appears to have peaked with the recent fall in prices for many commodities. Some shareholders have been critical of the company's strategy, including plans to invest around US$80 billion on growth over five years and the acquisition last year of shale-gas assets in the U.S. -By Alex MacDonald, Dow Jones Newswires; +44 (0)20 7842 9328; (Robb M. Stewart in Melbourne contributed to this story.)

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