BHP Billiton seeks out acquisitions

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BHP Billiton is looking worldwide for acquisition opportunities to take advantage of the current market weakness, the global miner's petroleum president, Michael Yeager, said yesterday.

BHP also said the recent giant oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has brought some delays to its projects and could hit its production growth forecast of 10 per cent for the year ending 10 June, and estimates of 8 to 10 per cent next year.

Talking to reporters yesterday, Mr Yeager would not say if BHP was looking at investment opportunities for its petroleum business or other commodities, but noted that the petroleum unit needs to reinvigorate its exploration programme. BHP's petroleum business accounts for about 25 per cent of its total earnings and is the company's highest-margin business.

There has been persistent speculation that BHP could bid for a smaller rival, Woodside Petroleum, as both firms are already partners in some key projects. Mr Yeager also said BHP had diverted two of its four drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico to help BP, which would lead to delays in its own drilling and production schedule.