Majors cautious over recovery

PRESENTATIONS overnight by BHP CEO Mike Henry and Rio Tinto boss J-S Jacques to the Bank of America 2020 Global Metals, Mining and Steel Conference show the similar outlook of the two companies.
Majors cautious over recovery Majors cautious over recovery Majors cautious over recovery Majors cautious over recovery Majors cautious over recovery

BHP and Rio say China's recovery is going well is making some of its most important coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic freely available to readers. For more coverage, please see our COVID-19 hub. To subscribe to, click here.

Henry said US$7 trillion of stimulus measures committed by G20 nations would aid the economic recovery from COVID-19.

"Even so, other than in China where a V-shaped recovery appears to be underway, we think the recovery will be more protracted elsewhere," he said.

"Tens of millions of people have lost their jobs across developed economies, and more than 1 billion workers in the informal labour markets of developing economies have had their livelihoods affected.

"Re-establishing these livelihoods will take time and consumption will be inevitably constrained, making a V-shaped recovery increasingly unlikely."

BHP's base case has the global economy as 4% smaller by the end of 2021 than it would have been if COVID-19 didn't happen.

Speaking separately, Jacques said Rio felt "pretty confident" about China and it looked as if there had been a V-shaped recovery.

"The rest of the world, I don't know which letter of the alphabet you want to use?" he said.

Jacques said the global recovery would come down to three factors.

"First, the fear factor. Much will depend on how society chooses to respond - especially peoples' willingness to get back to work during a health crisis," he said.

"Second, the effectiveness of the health measures put in place, including the introduction of a vaccine.

"And third, the effectiveness of economic stimulus to encourage consumer spending and business investment.

"What is clear is that regardless of the shape of the recovery, the world will see slower GDP growth, and trade impacts. Both key drivers of the mining industry."

Both CEOs spruiked the resilience of their respective companies, which was backed up by analysts overnight.

UBS upgraded BHP from neutral to buy on valuation grounds, given its 20% drop since February.

"In our view, BHP is in a strong position with gearing at 17% and net debt of US$12 billion (target range of $12-17 billion)," analysts said.

"This should enable BHP to continue to return surplus cash to shareholders at a time when other more traditional dividend-paying stocks are not."

Jefferies reiterated a buy rating on Rio after receiving questions around the company's dividend under different iron ore price scenarios.

"We conclude that Rio's dividend will be supportive in downturns while its shares are also leveraged to a cyclical recovery," analyst Christopher LaFemina said.

BHP shares were down 1.1% this morning to A$30.38, while Rio was down 0.5% to $82.20.

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