Kloppers focuses City minds on BHP's oil prospects

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The chief executive of BHP Billiton opened up a new front yesterday in his attempt to convince investors of the merits of the £75bn hostile offer for rival Rio Tinto. Rather than directing attacks against Rio's arguments for resistance - the chosen tactic so far - Marius Kloppers gave a round of presentations to City analysts that focused on the mining giant's oil business, detailing the unit's impressive growth prospects.

Rio has argued that BHP must do better than the 3.4 for one share swap bid currently on the table. The tussle for what would be one of the world's largest ever takeovers has descended into increasingly acrimonious exchanges between the two sides. Mr Kloppers' focus on the oil business is a marked change. He said yesterday that the business, which already accounts for a fifth of earnings, will grow by 10 per cent per annum by 2011. As the oil price hits new records nearly every week, Mr Kloppers also dispelled the long-running rumour that BHP may divest the unit.