BHP Billiton prepares to bolster media capacity

BHP Billiton, the world’s biggest mining corporation, is restructuring its worldwide communications to improve its corporate visibility in the face of rising media interest in the commodities sector.

The company is using headhunter Watson Helsby to find a senior media relations adviser to cover London, Europe, Africa, the
Middle East and Russia.

BHP Billiton is also close to making a similar appointment for its Australian headquarters in Melbourne, where responsibility will cover media relations for the Asia-Pacific region.

V-P of IR and comms Mark Lidiard told PRWeek the move was motivated by increased media interest in the commodities sector and BHP Billiton's expansion into a £52bn company.

'Over the past few years we have focused on the investor end of the market and media relations has been more or less an adjunct to that,' said Lidiard. 'These postholders will offer advice to our guys on the ground.'

BHP retains Smithfield in London and has a dual listing on the London and Australian Stock Exchanges. The move comes just over a month after BHP chief executive Chip Goodyear unveiled a 79 per cent jump in full-year group net profits on the back of strong demand for commodities.

He said rapid economic growth in China had fuelled demand for commodities but costs were putting pressure on the mining industry and hindering its ability to bring resources on-stream.

His prediction that some metal prices might become more balanced have been interpreted by some as bearish comment on the sector's cyclical direction.

BHP recently hired Burson-Marsteller director Andrew Wigley as external affairs adviser, reporting to BHP Billiton Petroleum global external affairs manager Martin Christie (PRWeek, 23 September).

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