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Lex专栏:必和必拓的投资之道(zz)  

2010-02-21 19:53:57|  分类: 默认分类 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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As significant as what BHP Billiton announced yesterday was what it didn't. Half-year results for the world's largest miner were better than expectations on almost every line: net income up 134 per cent, abundant free cash flow, net gearing less than half of the group's 10-year average. But there was no news of a widely anticipated share buy-back.

The big question now is what Jacques Nasser, succeeding Don Argus as chairman early this year, does with the sector's best-looking balance sheet. Investment in the business, rather than outside it, looks the smartest option.

Mr Nasser will be keen not to do anything rash. He inherited a $24bn cash pile when he took over as chief executive of Ford in 1999, but subsequent deals – including buying BMW's Land Rover unit and Volvo cars for a combined $9.2bn – were considerably less successful than

the cost-cuts that earned him the nickname “Jac the Knife”. And BHP, in truth, has got out of the deal-making habit. Discretionary spending outside the core business in the past two years has been limited to advisers' fees for the feint at Rio Tinto, and to banks, for blocking out billions of dollars to fund a bid that never was. Divestitures over that period outnumber acquisitions by two to one. Moreover, there are still question marks over regulatory approval for BHP's iron ore joint venture with Rio, and how much BHP must pay Rio to settle it.

For all those reasons, cash thrown off by the business is better directed back into it. Capital spending should be up by almost two-thirds next year; in addition, BHP has identified 40 longer-term projects, 18 of which could each consume more than $2bn. The group's ability to reinvest in its premier assets while bringing new ones on stream, almost regardless of the cycle, has become its most important competitive advantage.

Mr Nasser should not squander it.

必和必拓(BHP Billiton)昨日公告中没有提及的内容,和公告提到的内容同样重要。这家全球最大矿业集团的半年度业绩几乎在每个方面都好于预期:净利润增长134%,充裕的自由现金流,净负债率低于10年均值的一半。但必和必拓没有发布市场广泛预期的股份回购消息。

目前的重要问题是,有了该行业最好看的资产负债表,今年初接替唐?阿古斯(Don Argus)出任必和必拓董事长的雅克?纳赛尔(Jac Nasser)会怎么做。投资于自身业务,而不是对外投资,看起来是最明智的选择。

纳赛尔会竭力避免仓促行事。1999年出任福特(Ford)首席执行官时,他继承了240亿美元现金,但他随后进行的交易——包括以总计92亿美元收购了宝马(BMW)的路虎(Land Rover)子公司和沃尔沃(Volvo)汽车——远不及让他赢得“雅克利刃”(Jac the Knife)之名的成本削减措施成功。实际上,必和必拓已经摆脱了缔结交易的习惯。过去两年,必和必拓核心业务以外的自由支配支出仅限于佯装收购力拓(Rio Tinto)支付的顾问费用,以及为一项并非真心进行的收购设计数十亿美元资金支持而向银行支付的费用。在此期间,资产剥离数量比收购数量多出一倍。此外,对于必和必拓与力拓的铁矿石合资企业是否会获得监管批准,以及必和必拓必须为此向力拓支付多少费用,仍然存在疑问。

出于以上这些理由,必和必拓最好收回投出的资金。明年的资本支出应增长近三分之二;此外,必和必拓已确立了40个长期项目,其中18个项目每项可能耗资逾20亿美元。几乎无论处于什么周期,必和必拓都能够在再投资于核心资产的同时投产新项目,这种能力已经成为其最重要的竞争优势。

纳赛尔不应浪费这种优势。

Lex专栏是由FT评论员联合撰写的短评,对全球经济与商业进行精辟分析

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