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BHP Billiton vs Rio Tinto

Victoria Tait  |  24 Feb 2011Text size  Decrease  Increase  |  

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Victoria Tait is Morningstar's online stocks editor.


BHP Billiton (BHP) and Rio Tinto (RIO) produced jaw-dropping levels of profit as weather-related supply shortages stoked already fierce demand for iron ore, coal and other resources.

China and India are driving the demand to the extent that both mining giants are looking to the next wave of developing markets to fuel long-term profit growth.

In 2006, Rio Tinto published a report entitled "China's resource demand at the turning point", citing a number of economic signals that indicated the country was on the brink of an industrialisation boom. Until then, demand for iron ore and other resources was mainly from steelmakers in Japan and Korea.

India is following China's development path. Industrialisation and urbanisation - the development of factories and apartments and office buildings - in these countries is underpinning a resources boom of a magnitude never before seen in Australia as "stronger for longer" gives way to "super cycle".

The nation's unprecedented resources-led economic boom is so strong, Reserve Bank of Australia governor Glenn Stevens has devoted an entire speech to it, warning of high inflation.

Stevens says resources booms have been part of Australia's economy ever since the nation's miners started pulling useful things out of the ground.

"The main thing we know about the current episode is that it looks very large," Stevens said.

Australia's current boom has added 13 per cent - or $180 billion - to the nation's gross domestic product.

TABLE: Resources export changes over past 8 to 10 years

Resource Consumer Then Now Change
Coal Global 200m tonnes 300m tonnes up 50pc
Iron ore Global 600,000 tonnes 1.1m tonnes up 83pc
LNG Capacity 10m tonnes 20m tonnes up 100pc

(Source: RBA)

And according to the latest set of results from both mining giants, the boom is set to continue on the back of rising prices and a growing number of emerging markets.