BHP Billiton Rebranding Drops 'Billiton' in Return to Roots
By Robb M. Stewart
MELBOURNE, Australia--Assailed by activist investors and with a
deadly mining disaster still casting a shadow, mining giant BHP
Billiton Ltd. (BHP.AU) launched a rebranding that takes it back to
its roots in Australia.
Ahead of an eventual change in its official name, the company
will use a new logo starting Monday, saying simply "BHP" in block
letters, dropping Billiton from its name. Its branding will also
remove the three stylized blobs that have featured for years and
replace the motto "Resourcing the Future" with "Think Big."
"It's a form of reset for us," said Geoff Healy, the
Melbourne-based company's chief external affairs officer.
A 10 million Australian dollar (US$7.4 million) campaign rolls
out in Australia starting this week, beginning with two 30-second
commercials and a three-minute video for employees and social media
that feature employees and highlight the company's history and the
importance of the commodities it extracts.
The name change harks back to the original Broken Hill Propriety
Co. formed almost 132 years ago around a silver, lead and tin mine
in South Australia. The company was for decades known simply by its
acronym, although only changed its name formally to BHP Ltd. a year
before the 2001 merger with Billiton PLC when it combined names and
adopted a dual London- and Sydney-listed structure.
In recent years, the company has consolidated its portfolio of
assets and sought to simplify its structure around iron ore, oil
and gas, copper, and coal. In 2015, it spun off nickel, aluminum
and other assets--much of which came from the Billiton side of the
company--into South32 Ltd. (S32.AU) The company said that exit
wasn't the driver for the change, although it was part of the
evolution of the company.
In recent weeks, BHP has faced calls from shareholders agitating
for further restructuring to release billions of dollars in pent-up
shareholder value. U.S. hedge fund Elliott Management Corp.
(ELLA.XX) has met with other shareholders in London and Australia
in the past few weeks to whip up support for its proposal for the
company to spin off its U.S. petroleum division and collapse its
dual-listed structure. In early May, Australian fund manager
Tribeca Investment Partners issued its own call for BHP to exit its
U.S. onshore oil-and-gas assets and for a renewal in the board and
Australia's treasurer, Scott Morrison, came out swinging for BHP
after Elliott released its proposals publicly, warning that it was
"unthinkable" that the Big Australian would be allowed to head
offshore and that any attempt to move the primary listing to the
U.K. would be blocked. BHP has rejected Elliott's plans as too
BHP denied the advertising campaign was in any way a reaction to
Elliott or a response to concerns about its image after a 2015
disaster that killed 19 and wiped out villages at its Samarco
venture in Brazil with Vale SA. Work on the ad campaign had been
under way for about 18 months, Mr. Healy said.
"Think Big" is the first significant campaign for the miner
since "the Big Australian" ads over 30 years ago, which featured
the voice of actor Bill Hunter, who starred in movies including
"The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" and "Muriel's
Those ads, launched by the company as a reminder of its
Australian heritage even as it was expanding around the world,
still resonate with older Australians, Mr. Healy said.
The new campaign will focus on that heritage and what BHP does.
The next stage will concentrate on issues such as the company's
investments, jobs and relations with indigenous communities, and
then BHP would look to roll out advertising internationally, Mr.
For now, the company will carry both its new and existing logo.
There are no immediate plans to pull down signs from buildings or
change the jackets and other clothing of its workers, and an
official change back to BHP Ltd. would happen only when it made
sense, he added.
Mr. Healy thinks the change will send a good message to
shareholders. "If we weren't doing this, I think our shareholders
should be saying to us, 'Why aren't you doing this?'"
Write to Robb M. Stewart at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
May 14, 2017 10:15 ET (14:15 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2017 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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