Re-thinking BHP and Rio in China
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Christine St Anne is Morningtar's online editor.
In a recent interview, BHP Billiton (BHP) chief executive Marius Kloppers said investors needed to be reminded that the business of resources was cyclical, both for his company and Australia.
Kloppers was talking about BHP's latest full-year results, which involved a 35 per cent fall in profit to US$15 billion.
Although Kloppers did not see a significant slowdown for the Chinese economy - nor a change in Chinese demand for steel - the mining chief did acknowledge that commodity prices "across the product suite" for BHP will be lower than today' prices.
Rio Tinto's (RIO) profit was down 34 per cent. Again, lower commodity prices as Chinese demand eased was a factor behind Rio's results.
Other mining companies fared better. Australia's third-largest iron ore producer Fortescue Metals (FMG) reported a headline profit of US$1.6 billion, up 53 per cent.
Iluka Resources' (ILU) net profit for the half year to 30 June 2012 rose 88.1 per cent to $274.4 million. However, the company did note weaker demand for zircon due to dampening demand in China for property construction.
China's "slowdown" is not alarming - after all, an expected growth rate of around 6 per cent is still solid.
The profit results from the big mining companies have, however, highlighted that a shift is certainly occurring in China, with the country continuing to move from industrialisation to consumption.
A narrow story
For MLC Investment Management strategist Brian Parker, the resources play on China's growth is a "narrow story".
"China has been a great story for the world and Australia, but it is not a story without risk. Our exports to China are so focused on iron ore and dependent on the steel industry," Parker says.