In 2011, Australia-based mining company BHP Billiton Ltd. (NYSE: BHP) paid $15 billion to acquire Petrohawk Energy and $4.75 billion to acquire nearly 500,000 leased acres in the Fayetteville shale play from Chesapeake Energy Corp. (NYSE: CHK). On Tuesday the world’s largest miner by market cap said it would take an after-tax charge of $2 billion related to its natural gas assets in the Hawkville field of the Eagle Ford shale play.
The value of BHP’s onshore U.S. assets following the write-down will be about $24 billion. The company’s petroleum president said in a statement, “While the impairment of the Hawkville is disappointing, it does not reflect the quality of our broader Onshore US business.”
This charge is not the first that BHP has taken on its U.S. assets. In 2012 it wrote down $2.84 billion on the assets it acquired from Chesapeake. In May, BHP took a $328 million impairment charge related to its sale of oil and gas assets in Louisiana and Texas. BHP also put its Fayetteville assets up for sale in October, according to the Financial Times, but could not drum up a buyer.
BHP spun off its non-core assets in May to an Australia-traded firm called South32, essentially giving the assets away to maintain its focus on copper and oil production. The company has all but ended its investments in iron ore and coal because the prices for both are low and unlikely to rise again anytime soon — if ever in the case of coal.
BHP said a West Texas Intermediate (WTI) price of $60 and a natural gas price above $3 per million BTUs is enough to keep its onshore U.S. business cash-flow positive. Oil traded around $53 a barrel Wednesday morning and natural gas traded at around $2.84 per million BTUs.
Shares of BHP traded up about 0.7% in Wednesday’s premarket session but dropped about 0.7% to $39.67 after Wednesday’s open. The 52-week range is $37.06 to $73.91. Shares traded down about 0.7% in Sydney.