THE WEST AUSTRALIAN
Friday, 30 November 2012 08:15
South Fremantle Senior High School product Graham Kerr, who became BHP Billiton's chief financial officer at the start of this year, has been drawn into the hype surrounding the miner's future leadership after being singled out as a "good example" of the $US174 billion ($166 billion) company's "executive development and succession planning process".
Not surprisingly, BHP's annual meeting in Sydney yesterday was dominated by an investor and media focus on the eventual successor to long-serving chief executive Marius Kloppers following the revelation earlier this month that the board had engaged head hunters to search for a successor.
There has been talk of disunity between Mr Kloppers and chairman Jac Nasser, although both were in a jovial mood when fronting reporters after the meeting.
"I serve at the pleasure of the board," Mr Kloppers said in response to a question about how much longer he would like to remain in the job. "It has been amusing. I would prefer to read about low cost and high margin and great performance in the sharemarket but I can't read everything that I want."
Mr Nasser, who during his address to shareholders yesterday highlighted Perth-born Mr Kerr as a good example of BHP's internal succession process which had delivered a "world-class leadership team", said he understood the interest in the succession issue.
"It's natural. I get it," Mr Nasser told reporters. "We basically believe in having a very strong bench within the company. I thought it was a little humorous today because I pointed out Graham Kerr. We develop talent internally. We (also) always look on the outside."
Mr Kloppers also said Rio Tinto's announcement yesterday it was slicing $US5 billion, or about 10 per cent, off its cost base vindicated BHP's move last year to put projects on hold and rein in expenditure.
It was a decision that displeased some investors although Mr Kloppers said yesterday "time has shown that our call was correct".
We were a little unpopular late last year when we talked about the cycle having run its course in some of the commodities.
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