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BHP merging embattled aluminum and nickel divisions

BHP Billiton (NYSE:BHP) added to market rumors that its nickel business is not relevant for the miner anymore by announcing yesterday it had merged the stainless steel materials unit with another struggling division: aluminum.

To be headquartered in Perth, Western Australia, the new group will be led by Glenn Kellow, the current president of BHP stainless steel materials division, said the company in a statement.

The new arm would contain all of BHP’s current nickel and aluminum assets, including Nickel West and the Worsley Alumina Refinery in Australia, as well as assets in Colombia, Mozambique, South Africa, and other international locations.

BHP’s aluminum, nickel, and corporate development CEO Alberto Calderon said while the assets were currently struggling the company saw future opportunities for them.

“Despite the current challenges, BHP Billiton is committed to aluminum and nickel as commodities that may benefit from later phases of economic development in the emerging economies,” he said.

Calderon said individually the aluminum and nickel assets were small compared to BHP’s overall business and combining them into a single unit would simplify the company structure and provide the “appropriate scale.”

The company rejected rumours by saying the announced move represents long-term faith in the industries.