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BHP lifts dividend; profit falls on U.S. tax hit

BHP Billiton Ltd. reported a 37% fall in first-half net profit but said it would lift its midyear payout by 38% after resurgent commodity prices sharply boosted its cash flow.

BHP, the world's largest listed miner by market value, said it made a profit of US$2.02 billion in the six months through December, which compared with a year-earlier profit of US$3.20 billion. The result was weighed down by one-off items totaling US$2 billion, mainly because BHP joined a parade of global firms, including Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Barclays Bank PLC, in recording large expenses linked to the U.S. tax overhaul.

Profit before one-off items was up 25% at US$4.05 billion, slightly below the US$4.21 billion median of nine analyst forecasts compiled by The Wall Street Journal.

Directors declared a dividend of 55 cents a share, up from 40 cents a year ago, meaning it returned nearly three-quarters of its earnings to shareholders. The company also cut net debt by US$900 million since mid-2017, to US$15.4 billion. However, BHP didn't follow other miners, including Anglo-Australian rival Rio Tinto PLC with a share buyback as some analysts had predicted.

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