BHP strikes while the iron’s hot

BHP Billiton has posted a record interim net profit of $US1.39 billion ($A1.76 billion), up 56 per cent on the corresponding period in 2002. The result, driven by demand from China, was higher than analysts' expectations and drove the company's share price up 17 cents to $A12.20. BHP Billiton declared an interim dividend of US8 cents a share fully franked. The company will spend an extra $US100 million on petroleum exploration and forecast a strong outlook based on continuing Chinese demand, a US recovery and improved conditions in Japan and Europe.