Drop in iron ore prices to hit BHP profit again

Mining giant BHP Billiton's (ASX, NYSE:BHP) profit is expected to slide for the third consecutive half this week, as last year's plummeting iron-ore price continues to take a toll on the resources giant.

According to AAP, analysts expect net profit to have dropped over 40% for the six months to December, to around $5.69 billion.

This would be 43% down from the $9.9 billion net profit for the six months to December, 2011, which itself was a 5.5 % drop and the company's first profit fall in three years.

Consensus estimates underlying earnings before interest and tax to fall 40% to almost $9.6 billion, down from $15.7 billion last year.

However, the commodity's price has jumped almost 80% to $150 a tonne since last September's low of $87, which may be a solid sign the tide is turning for BHP and other resources groups.

The company is also expected to respond to shareholder demands to see more return, increasing dividend payments to 57 cents a share, up from 55 cents last year.

BHP's diversification makes it less exposed to iron ore's earnings than Rio Tinto or Fortescue Metals.

In fact, the firm’s share price has gained about 30% in the past 12 months.

Last week Rio Tinto  (ASX, LON, NYSE:RIO) provided investors with a sour Valentine’s treat Thursday as the company posted a $3 billion loss, its first ever full-year loss.

(Image by The Library of Congress)

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