BHP names packaging executive Ken MacKenzie as its next chairman

Mining giant, BHP today named successful packaging executive Ken MacKenzie as its next chairman. Mackenzie is expected to tackle calls to dump its oil business and overhaul the board.

From 1 September, MacKenzie, 53, will succeed Jac Nasser, at a time when the world's biggest miner was being challenged by activist shareholders to revamp its structure and improve returns.

The appointment was hailed by investors and Mackenzie said he planned to meet shareholders in coming weeks to listen to their views. Mackenzie was considered as one of Australia's most successful chief executives in his 10 years running Amcor Ltd.

"It's an important first step in the right direction. Hopefully it creates a platform to be able to review what's amiss with the company in the eyes of some and address the concerns," said Brenton Saunders, an analyst at BT Investment Management, which owned BHP shares.

Canadian-born MacKenzie had successfully steered Amcor, which makes packaging for food producers, industrial companies and pharmaceutical firms, over a period that coincided with the end of a boom period for mining companies.

Nasser and chief executive Andrew Mackenzie had been the target of criticism from Hedge fund Elliott Management after it released a roadmap of changes it wanted at the company, most notably an exit from US oil and shale businesses.

MacKenzie ''brings extensive global executive experience and a strategic approach,'' Melbourne-based BHP's senior independent director Shriti Vadera, who led the formal succession process, said in the statement. ''He has a proven track record of delivering value for shareholders.''

The incoming chairman will need to guide BHP as it sought to focus on growth in copper and crude oil with slowing economic expansion coupled with peaking steel demand in China limiting the growth outlook for iron ore, the company's top earner, and coking coal.

BHP's announcement comes after a meeting of the producer's board in Chile, where the company held assets, including the world's biggest copper mine.