BHP 2.05% $47.18 bhp group limited

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    MELBOURNE, Feb 24 (Reuters) - The world's largest diversified miner BHP Billiton Ltd/Plc (London:BLT.L - News) said on Monday its first half-net profit fell 19.4 percent versus the year-ago period due to currency movements.

    The producer of copper, nickel, iron ore, coal, petroleum and aluminium and alumina said net profit for the six months to December 31, 2002 came in at $US931 million, down from $1.155 billion a year ago excluding discontinued businesses.

    The miner also said its operations were maintaining stable cashflows despite world economic uncertainties.

    Targeted savings from a merger of BHP and Billiton were ahead of target at US$285 million, the company said.

    Analysts surveyed by Reuters forecast a net profit before one-off items of $934.5 million within a range of $890.3 million and $1.005 billion.

    BHP Billiton, whose Chief Executive Brian Gilbertson quit last month after clashing with the board, has South African rand denominated debt and many key assets are in Australia and South Africa where currencies have risen compared to a year ago.

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