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BHP to open data rooms in March for sale of US shale assets

BHP Billiton Group plans to open data rooms for its U.S. shale assets in March, as it expects to announce a deal for the sale of the assets before the end of the year, Mining Weekly reported Feb. 20, citing the company.

According to the report, the company will initially open a data room for its Fayetteville field, with succeeding rooms for its Eagle Ford, Permian and Haynesville assets to follow suit. BHP owns 383,000 acres of shale assets.

In its earnings report, the mining giant said trade sale bids for the company's onshore U.S. assets are expected in the June quarter and it will evaluate and negotiate the bids in the September quarter. The completion of the asset sale is expected in the first half of fiscal 2019.

The development comes after months of pressure from activist shareholder Elliott Management Corp., which proposed sweeping changes for BHP, including retaining its ASX listing and spinning off its U.S. shale assets, worth about US$22 billion.

Responding to a question about whether BHP would consider "out of cycle" shareholder returns after the sale of shale assets, CEO Andrew Mackenzie said any decisions regarding the use of sale proceeds would be influenced by the health of commodity markets and the company's priorities at the time, The Australian Financial Review reported.

"The important thing is we need to get these transactions done, we will need to then, as usual, do our long-term plans, look at our cashflows, and when we come back in August we will have a little bit more certainty around that," said Mackenzie.

BHP hiked its interim dividend to 55 U.S. cents per share from 40 cents per share a year earlier, despite a 37% drop in its net profit.