UPDATE 1-New faces at Rio, BHP woo investors with austerity talk
* BHP says 2014 capex to drop to $18 billion
* BHP promises internal competition for capital
* Rio sticks to $2 billion cost cut target in 2013
* Rio promises "significant cash proceeds" from sales
By Clara Ferreira-Marques
LONDON , May 14 (Reuters) - New bosses at two of the world's largest mining companies, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto , wooed investors on Tuesday with promises to slash billions of dollars of spending and press ahead with asset sales, boosting returns.
Mining companies have come under pressure from investors for splashing out on pricey projects during the industry's boom years - at the expense of shareholder returns - while costs spiralled out of control.
At an industry conference that marks one of his first public appearances, new BHP boss Andrew Mackenzie promised a "relentless" focus on productivity to boost margins, and said capital and exploration expenditure next year would drop to around $18 billion, including investment in the miner's onshore oil and gas business.
That is down almost a fifth from BHP's 2013 financial year - as spending associated with its major projects drops - and is expected to fall further to some $15 billion, "or less" as the company reduces the number of major projects that are approved, hoping to keep a lid on debt levels. Continued...