Iran General NewsUS probed BHP Billiton trade with Cuba and Iran

US probed BHP Billiton trade with Cuba and Iran

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The Australian: THE US SEC looked into BHP Billiton’s activities in Iran and Cuba after Washington labelled the countries as state sponsors of terrorism.

The Australian

THE US SEC looked into BHP Billiton’s activities in Iran and Cuba after Washington labelled the countries as state sponsors of terrorism.

According to documents filed with the regulator on June 15, the world’s largest miner said it had earned $US361 million ($392m) in revenues from Iran in the four years to the end of June 2009 and expected to make a further $US74m from the country in the most recent financial year.

It had also paid about $US2.3m to state-owned Cuban nickel and mining research companies for projects in Cuba and Guatemala from 2006-2008, the company said.

Many states and municipalities in the US have passed laws in recent years prohibiting the investment of public funds in corporations doing business with countries on the US government’s state sponsors of terrorism list.

Massachusetts last Wednesday passed an Act forcing the state’s pension fund to divest its holdings in companies that invested in Iran’s oil industry.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) occasionally looks into companies doing business in countries on the list to ensure that US investors are fully informed of the risk involved.

However, the three-month inquiry ended on June 15 without further action.

“The SEC inquiry was routine and has now been closed,” a BHP spokeswoman said.

BHP said that less than 1 per cent of its shares were held directly by US state and municipal pension funds and universities, and 82 per cent were held outside the US.

Australia and Britain, where BHP has its main listings, have full diplomatic relations with Tehran and Havana, and the company leased office space in Tehran from Australia’s government trade body Austrade while investigating constructing a natural gas pipeline with the National Iranian Oil Company between 2002 and 2005.

Soundings with investors did “not indicate that dealings with Iran or Cuba are a significant concern”, the company said.

The correspondence listed several activities BHP had carried out in the countries. Alongside the pipeline project, BHP subsidiaries had sold alumina, coking coal, manganese, and copper to state-owned Iranian companies including Esfahan Steel, Mobarakeh Steel, Iranian Aluminium, and National Iranian Copper Industries.

It had also purchased four cargoes of Iranian iron ore through Dubai-based traders during 2007 and 2008, earning a profit of $US210,000.

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