BHP Billiton on the prowl for acquisitions: report

The world's largest mining company, BHP Billiton is set to trigger a new round of consolidation in the mining industry as it seeks to make acquisitions, including some large rivals, from the approximate $18-billion cash surplus accumulated last year as well as from additional borrowings, said the Wall Street Journal late last week.

The newspaper, citing BHP's chief commercial officer Alberto Calderon, said that the Anglo Australian miner has identified four or five opportunities and would make its move in the coming 12 months.

The company identified by the miner are all large mining, oil or gas companies, or assets in those sectors, more likely in mining, Calderon in charge of the company's acquisitions, told the WSJ.

Calderon was quoted by the paper as saying that BHP had set aside around $10 billion for development of new projects and expansion of existing ones, and a separate undisclosed amount had been set aside for acquisitions.

The paper also reported Calderon as saying the company has enough cash on hand and a low enough debt level to enable it to borrow more and wanted to put its "balance sheet to work" amid globally low prices due to the economic downturn.

Although declining to name the companies BHP is eying, he said that the company would like to expand in certain commodities, like iron ore, copper, coking coal, petroleum and potash.