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Sydney (AFP) Aug 16, 2012
Global mining giant BHP Billiton warned Thursday of job losses at its Australian operations as it grapples with China's slowdown and ongoing turbulence in Europe.
The Anglo-Australian miner is due to report its full-year results next Wednesday and speculation is growing of a significant drop in profits due to a slump in commodity prices as Chinese demand sags.
BHP has already warned of production cuts, closing a loss-making Australian coal mine in April, and said last month it would be shuffling its investment projects to minimise cash pressures, with a grim near-term outlook.
It said Thursday that it continued "to focus on reducing our overheads and operating costs across the business... against a backdrop of increasing costs and falling commodity prices," and jobs could be at stake.
"We don't intend to provide any detail about specific adjustments, but clearly there may be some impact on jobs in some areas," the world's biggest miner said in statement ahead of Wednesday's results briefing.
BHP chief Marius Kloppers told staff last month that the company had "continued to see evidence of a faster-than-anticipated economic slowdown" in China as its own costs rocketed, "impacting our profitability significantly".
Kloppers said BHP had to "reduce our cost base, eliminating all non-essential expenditure" and would carefully consider any future capital investment in an internal note to staff published by Australian media.
BHP posted a 5.5 percent fall in first-half profits in February to US$9.4 billion largely due to price volatility and warned of weakening conditions in its June quarter production report.
Major rival Rio Tinto reported a 22 percent slump in annual net profit to US$5.9 billion earlier this month, blaming an easing in commodity prices, and analysts are predicting a similar fall for BHP.
Australia's central bank has predicted that resources investment, a key driver of the nation's world-beating economic performance, is likely to peak by 2014.
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