Global mining giant BHP Billiton said Thursday it expected Chinese growth to remain muted in coming years and saw little improvement in coal and iron ore prices.
But the world’s largest miner said it was well positioned to reap the benefits of China’s longer-term economic growth, with copper, energy products and potash fertiliser all expected to boom as the Asian giant modernised.
BHP chief executive Marius Kloppers said the mining firm expected China’s growth to remain in the range between “seven and eight per cent in the coming years... lower than the double digit growth rates seen over the past decade”.
Given that, Kloppers said BHP did not expect “any material pricing upside in the near term” for iron ore and coal, key ingredients in steelmaking which have seen a “sharp decrease” in value due to slowing demand.
However, Kloppers said BHP saw great opportunities in China in the longer term due to its “unique and substantial industrialisation and urbanisation”.
“The focus will gradually switch toward greater mechanisation to drive productivity growth and to the next level of consumer goods, such as white goods, heating and air-conditioning, cars, stoves, and other similar goods,” Kloppers told shareholders at BHP’s annual general meeting in Sydney.
“This... will naturally result in an eventual moderation of demand for commodities such as iron ore and coal, but sustained increases in demand for commodities such as copper and the suite of energy products.”
Kloppers said BHP expected overall commodity demand to increase by between 50-80 per cent in the next 15 years.
Chairman Jac Nasser said incoming China President Xi Jinping was expected to continue with Beijing’s current five-year plan focussed on economic reform and growing domestic consumption.
Nasser said global energy demand was expected to increase by more than one-third over the next two decades, and China, India and the Middle East were expected to account for 60 per cent of that growth.