The world's biggest miner, BHP Group, reported a 39% jump in half-year profit, supported by an uptick in Chinese demand and high iron ore prices, even as concerns remain about disruptions from the coronavirus outbreak.
Underlying profit rose to $5.19 billion for the six months ended December 31 from $3.73 billion a year earlier. But the results missed estimates of a profit of $5.28 billion, according to analysts polled by research firm Vuma Financial.
BHP, like its peers, cashed in on higher iron ore prices through 2019, with a further boost coming as China pumped more money into its economy to avoid an economic slowdown. Imports of the steel input were at their second-highest level ever in 2019.
The coronavirus outbreak has complicated growth projections, however, just as investors hoped the signing of a U.S.-China Phase 1 trade deal would reduce friction between the world's two largest economies.
"For the 12 months ahead, we assess that directional risks to prices across our diversified portfolio are mixed, with the duration and intensity of the novel Coronavirus outbreak a major source of uncertainty," the miner said in a statement.
The company also declared an interim dividend of $0.65 per share, 10 cents higher than last year, but lower than the $0.71 projected by analysts.
Free cash flow for the miner came in at $3.7 billion, compared with $3.6 billion a year earlier.
(Writing by Jessie Jia Editing by Harry Huo)
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