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BHP Billiton's Petrohawk Swings to Loss as Prices Fall

By Robb M. Stewart MELBOURNE--BHP Billiton Ltd.'s (BHP) recently acquired U.S. shale operation Petrohawk Energy Corp. has swung sharply to a loss in the first six months of the year, further pain for the resources giant after it last week said it would write down the value of another shale purchase by US$2.84 billion to reflect a slump in U.S. natural gas prices. Petrohawk in a statement released Thursday by BHP reported a first-half net loss of US$101.8 million in the period ended June 30, from a year-earlier profit of US$42.9 million, despite a jump in oil and gas revenue to US$965.3 million from US$793.9 million. BHP bought Petrohawk a year ago for US$12.1 billion, its second foray into the booming U.S. shale industry after it earlier in the year paid US$4.75 billion for Chesapeake Energy Corp.'s (CHK) Fayetteville shale assets and a pipeline system in Arkansas. BHP said Friday it was taking the impairment charge against the Fayetteville assets, but didn't need to write down any of the Petrohawk assets due to the potential to pump liquids rather than dry gas in Texas and Louisiana. Petrohawk said production of oil and gas rose 37% on year to 59,950 million cubic feet of gas equivalent in the six months through June thanks to drilling successes, although this was partially offset by a US$0.58 fall in the average realized price to US$4.36 per 1,000 cubic feet equivalent. Petrohawk's earnings were also dented by a US$28.3 million loss on derivative contracts, compared with a profit a year earlier. BHP in a statement accompanying Petrohawk's results said the figures aren't any indication of the contribution the business made to BHP's own results since it was acquired. BHP's profit is expected to have fallen 22% to almost US$16.88 billion before one-time items in the year to June 30 as prices for iron ore and other commodities have fallen, according to the consensus of 25 analysts' forecasts. The company is due to report its results Aug. 22. Write to Robb M. Stewart at Order free Annual Report for BHP Billiton Plc Visit or call +44 (0)208 391 6028 Order free Annual Report for BHP Billiton Plc Visit or call +44 (0)208 391 6028 Order free Annual Report for Chesapeake Energy Corp. Visit or call +44 (0)208 391 6028 Subscribe to WSJ:

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