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BHP picks former packaging chief as new chair

Mining giant BHP on Friday named the former chief of Australian packaging giant Amcor as its new chairman as it grapples pressure from a US hedge fund to restructure the business.

Ken MacKenzie, who joined the Anglo-Australian firm as a non-executive director last year, will take over the chairmanship in September.

Current chairman Jac Nasser delayed his departure from the world’s largest miner to take charge of the response to the 2015 Brazil mine collapse in which 19 people died. He announced he was stepping down in October.

“Ken MacKenzie brings extensive global executive experience and a strategic approach,” senior independent director Shriti Vadera said in a statement.

“He has a proven track record of delivering value for shareholders. He has the operational and financial capabilities as well as the rigour necessary to effectively oversee BHP’s capital allocation framework.”

Shares in BHP edged down 0.17 percent to Aus$22.96 in early Sydney trade on Friday.

The global hunt for a new chairman saw the miner evaluate internal and external candidates, and came as it dropped the name Billiton in a re-branding exercise.

BHP has also been facing a push by a major shareholder, New York-based Elliott Advisors, for a restructure that involves dissolving its costly dual-listing, with assets transferred to a new firm incorporated and listed in Britain.

Elliott welcomed MacKenzie’s appointment in a statement, adding that it was a “constructive step in bringing much needed change to the direction of BHP”.

The investor also called on the incoming chair to “address BHP’s poor capital allocation and underperformance, nominate diverse and qualified directors, and review the executive management team”.

BHP rejected Elliott’s proposal in April, while Canberra has warned that removing the firm from the Australian Stock Exchange was not in the national interest.

Canadian-born Australian MacKenzie, 53, was the managing director and chief executive of Amcor from 2005 to 2015, and has a 23-year career with the packaging company.

“He’s a fresh set of eyes to look over the company,” Fat Prophets resources analyst David Lennox told AFP.

“I don’t think he’ll change that much… We believe the company has moved itself into a very good position to benefit from rising commodity prices in the sectors that it’s in.”

BHP in February reported a rebound in profits for the last six months of 2016 after plunging into the red the previous year.

 

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