UPDATE 3-BHP says U.S. shale business to generate cash by 2016

Tue Dec 10, 2013 9:12pm EST
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* Says onshore U.S. production to be self-funding in 2016

* Seeks to extend liquids production profile

* To focus spending on Australia, US, Trinidad and Tobago

* Sees good interest in U.S. Permian shale assets up for sale

By Clara Ferreira-Marques

LONDON, Dec 10 (Reuters) - BHP Billiton, the world's largest miner and a top investor in U.S. onshore oil and gas, said on Tuesday its U.S. shale business should generate cash from 2016, contributing almost $3 billion a year to the group by the end of the decade.

BHP, one of the largest producers outside the major integrated oil companies, plans to spend around $4 billion a year to expand its U.S. onshore oil and gas production.

The company is dedicating a growing slice of its spending to petroleum, one of the key pillars of its broader business, along with iron ore in Western Australia, copper and coal.

Some analysts have raised questions over declining returns in a petroleum business, which they say turned cash negative this year for the first time in over a decade, reflecting heavy investments.   Continued...