Company news in brief

21 August 2019 | Business

BHP pays record dividend, flags risks

BHP Group, the world's biggest miner, yesterday reported its largest annual profit in five years and posted record full-year dividends, boosted by a dramatic rally in prices for steelmaking ingredient iron ore.

BHP has handed back some US$20.9 billion to investors for the financial year that ended in June including a 78 US cent dividend announced yesterday. That stemmed from the sale of its shale gas business and was helped by surging iron ore prices following supply outages in Brazil and Australia.

While the trade dispute between Washington and Beijing has dampened global economic growth, it has not yet affected Chinese demand for BHP's commodities such as iron ore, copper and coal in China, said chief executive Andrew Mackenzie.

Mackenzie also noted that BHP has become the world's lowest cost iron ore producer, whittling costs down to US$12.86 per tonne with scope to trim them still further, as it reaped a 40% jump in realised prices to US$77.74 from US$55.62 in the first-half of the 2019 calendar year.

Underlying profit for the 12 months ended June 30 rose to US$9.12 billion from US$8.93 billion a year earlier, but still undershot expectations of US$9.4 billion from a Vuma consensus of 18 analysts. – Nampa/Reuters

Aramco asks banks to pitch for IPO

Saudi Aramco has formally asked major banks to submit proposals for potential roles in its planned initial public offering, two sources said, in what could be the world's biggest IPO.

Aramco's planned IPO, which could potentially raise US$100 billion, is the centrepiece of Saudi Arabia's economic transformation drive to attract foreign investment and diversify away from oil.

Request for proposals were sent to banks few days day ago, they said. Aramco declined to comment.

The formal IPO process follows Saudi Arabia's crown prince Mohammed bin Salman's comments in June that the government remained fully committed to the IPO, expecting it to take place between 2020 and early 2021, after it was postponed last year.

Work on the deal, which proposed a listing in Riyadh and an international exchange, was halted in 2018 when Aramco began a process to acquire a 70% stake in petrochemicals maker Saudi Basic Industries Corp. – Nampa/Reuters

Estee Lauder sees no slowdown in China

Estee Lauder Cos Inc on Monday forecast full-year revenue and profit above Wall Street expectations, putting to bed concerns of slowing demand in China due to trade tensions and Hong Kong protests as sales of its luxury skin care products soared, propelling its shares to a record high.

Cosmetic companies like Estee Lauder and L'Oreal are seeing a boom in their business in the Asia-Pacific region, mainly in China, as affluent millennials spend more at beauty retailers and duty-free stores at airports.

The company has been selling 10 of its brands including M.A.C and Tom Ford on Alibaba's online marketplace Tmall, in a bid to boost its presence in the Asian market.

Estee Lauder expects full-year sales to grow in the range of 7% to 8% and adjusted profit between US$5.90 and US$5.98 per share in fiscal 2020.

Overall, quarterly net sales rose 9% to US$3.59 billion, beating expectations of US$3.53 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv. Excluding items, it earned 64 US cents per share, beating estimates by 11 US cents. – Nampa/Reuters

Swiss watch exports to Hong Kong fall

Swiss watch exports to their top market Hong Kong fell a modest 1.3% in July amid increasingly violent anti-government protests in the former British colony that have weighed on watch sales.

That was a sharp improvement from the 27% drop in June.

Overall exports by the sector rose 4.3% to 1.9 billion Swiss francs (US$1.94 billion) in July.

One of the world's most popular shopping destinations, Hong Kong is on the verge of its first recession in a decade as mass demonstrations scare off tourists and bite into retail sales.

The Asian financial centre that reverted from British to Chinese rule in 1997 is the biggest foreign market for Swiss timepieces, absorbing 13.5% of the exports by value in July. – Nampa/Reuters

Baidu Q2 revenue beats expectations

Chinese internet giant Baidu regained momentum during the second quarter, posting better-than-expected revenue yesterday thanks to strong traffic growth, though it also announced a huge drop in net profit.

The Beijing-based search leader said its total revenues rose 1.4% to 26.3 billion yuan (US$3.8 billion), beating the average prediction of 25.8 billion yuan forecast in a Bloomberg poll of analysts.

However, it warned revenue in the third quarter could decline as much as 5%.

Baidu also said net profit fell 62% in the three months ending 30 June owing to consolidation costs while facing the challenge of rivals such as ByteDance Inc.

Baidu in May posted its first quarterly revenue loss since its IPO in 2005 as the company struggled to grow sales and the head of its core search business resigned. – Nampa/AFP

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