UPDATE 2-BHP boosts exploration spend as focus narrows to oil, copper
* BHP ups exploration budget to $900 mln
* Focus on oil and copper
* Says investing more in exploration while others cut (Recasts, adds analyst comments, detail)
By James Regan
SYDNEY, June 27 (Reuters) - BHP Billiton plans to lift exploration spending by 29 percent next year, allocating nearly all its $900 million budget to finding oil and copper, as big miners bet on a narrow pick of commodities to drive future growth.
Miners fret about future production even in years of huge oversupply. But the move by the world's biggest miner to lift exploration spending signals a shift away from the mergers and acquisitions that some in the market had expected would help drive growth after prices collapsed.
BHP and its peers, such as Rio Tinto and Glencore, haven't ruled out future acquisitions, but they say few top quality projects are up for sale at the right price, leaving no other option but to grow by exploring.
"Companies operate in a cyclical world and it's about setting up for long-term growth," said Keith Goode, an analyst for Eagle Mining Research.
"There may be too much out there at the moment, but copper and oil aren't going away," he said. Continued...