6 Aug 2012

Big write-down by BHP

12:30 pm on 6 August 2012

BHP Billiton on Friday announced shale gas and nickel writedowns totalling $A3.15 billion.

The company is taking a $A2.71 billion hit on the value of its Fayetteville shale gas fields in the United States which were acquired from Chesapeake Energy only 18 months ago, in February 2011.

Since then, the price of gas in the US has roughly halved and BHP has shifted its drilling to focus on liquid rich shale fields, with the price of oil remaining much stronger than natural gas.

Chief executive Marius Kloppers says he believes the assets are low-cost and high-quality and will still prove their worth in the longer term.

The ABC reports the world's biggest miner also took the opportunity to write $A431 million off the value of its Nickel West assets, due to deteriorating margins.

BHP Billiton shares were down 2.3% to $A31.27 by 2.54pm (AEST) on Friday.