FMG 0.42% $16.72 fortescue metals group ltd

iron ore outlook

  1. 60 Posts.

    AS THE global financial crisis threatens to derail the once-unstoppable commodities boom, BHP Billiton has moved to reassure panic-stricken investors with a bullish outlook for petroleum and iron ore.

    In a presentation to analysts lodged with the Australian Securities Exchange yesterday, BHP Petroleum Australia country manager Phil Byrne said the mining giant had "outstanding" local opportunities.

    Potential ventures include developing the Macedon gas field off the north-west coast of Western Australia to supply the domestic market, as well as the nearby Thebe, Scarborough and Browse fields for liquefied natural gas exports, he added.

    And in a separate presentation, BHP iron ore president Ian Ashby was upbeat about the outlook for the steel-making ingredient, despite growing concerns prices will fall next year as Chinese construction and steel exports slow down.

    Although the softening Chinese economy would create short-term uncertainty in the iron ore market, long-term demand would remain strong thanks to the economic giant's continued industrialisation, Mr Ashby said.

    Mr Byrne said long-term demand for LNG would remain strong despite some short-term volatility, although new LNG projects would face a challenging financial and regulatory environment in Australia, he said.

    Iron ore has been a key battlefront in BHP's $100 billion bid to acquire rival Rio Tinto since the offer first became public in November last year, as the combination of the two miners' operations in the Pilbara of WA would unlock billions of dollars in cost-savings.

    Chinese and European steelmakers have also been vocal in their concerns the combined BHP-Rio would wield too much power over iron ore prices, with European competition regulators to rule on the issues by January 15.

    Petroleum has also emerged as a key issue, with the BHP camp pitting its oil and gas business against Rio's aluminium business earlier this year when oil was touching record high prices of nearly $US150 a barrel.

    BHP shares rose 22c to $24.60, clawing back ground after heavy losses last week. Rio gained 55c to $64.65.

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