THE WEST AUSTRALIAN
Thursday, 21 February 2013 08:11
Incoming BHP Billiton chief executive Andrew Mackenzie has promised a "laser-like focus" on driving down costs and pledged to squeeze greater efficiencies out of the global miner.
Yesterday. the Scotsman was named as the successor to Marius Kloppers, who will end his near-six-year term as chief executive on May 10.
Mr Mackenzie is currently head of BHP Billiton's non-ferrous division but has a strong background in oil and gas, which he said would allow him to unlock "powerful synergies" between the company's mining and petroleum operations.
"We've done a lot but I'm well-placed to do more," the 56-year-old told a media conference in Sydney.
Mr Kloppers insists he is stepping down by choice and said the recent ousting of Rio Tinto boss Tom Albanese over poor results did not pressure him into resigning.
He had no regrets about one of his biggest failed ventures - the 2008 $US147 billion attempted takeover of Rio Tinto - as he ends a tenure marked by record profits and controversies including the shelving of the Olympic Dam mine expansion and a $3 billion US asset writedown.
"Now is the time for me to pass the baton and for Andrew to take us to greater heights," a relaxed and smiling Mr Kloppers told a media conference in Sydney.
The chief executive change was announced as BHP Billiton reported net profit for the six months to December 31 of $US4.24 billion ($A4.14 billion), down from $US9.94 billion ($A9.70 billion) in the previous corresponding period.
Chairman Jacques Nasser confirmed in November that a search for Mr Kloppers' replacement had begun but denied it was in response to performance issues.
He praised the South African-born executive's performance, saying Mr Kloppers had grown BHP Billiton into "one of the most valuable companies in the world" and that the board and Mr Kloppers had decided "that this is the right time".
Mr Mackenzie held senior roles with BP and Rio Tinto before being lured to BHP Billiton by Mr Kloppers in 2007.
Mr Kloppers revealed he approached Mr Mackenzie as part of his own succession planning soon after becoming chief executive but had to ask three times before he agreed to come to BHP Billiton.
Mr Mackenzie is a geologist and geochemist with 50 research papers to his name and a 22-year history with BP, where he rose to lead the US petrochemicals business before becoming chief executive of Rio Tinto's industrial minerals division in 2004.
Mr Nasser said Mr Mackenzie's background in oil and gas would not affect BHP Billiton's project mix or focus.
"We have chosen a new leader, that doesn't mean we have chosen a new strategy," he said.
Mr Kloppers described Mr Mackenzie as a great friend and "the guy that I will go to if I'm asking advice for my kids".
Mr Kloppers said he had no plans for after his retirement from BHP Billiton on October 1 and was focused on handing over to Mr Mackenzie during the next two months.
Mr Mackenzie will relocate from London to the company's corporate headquarters in Melbourne for his new role.
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