- Don Argus (Photo: Richard Polden/TDT)

– Don Argus (Photo: Richard Polden/TDT)

Don Argus, led BHP for over a decade, growing the company from US$12 billion market capitalization to over US$200 billion with his tenure ending in 2010.

On Thursday the market valued BHP at $US189 billion.

Mr. Argus became Chairman in 1999 after leaving his post as the CEO of National Australia Bank and oversaw the Billiton merger in 2001.  It is the assets from this merger that are at the centre of the multi-billion dollar demerger being proposed today.  These assets include: aluminum, bauxite, manganese, nickel and some coal.

“I think it creates value in the assets,” he said in an article in The Sydney Morning Herald.

“When you have a multitude of assets on a balance sheet, and this is not only in the case of BHP, they don’t get a true value by the market.”

“When we floated off the steel divisions they realised what their true value was and I think that’s healthy for shareholders,” he said.  In 2002, BHP spun off its steel assets to create Arrium and BlueScope.

“Various commodities had their ups and some had downs and the diversified strategy worked for us while we were building our capacity in iron ore and oil and gas,” he said.

“Andrew MacKenzie (current CEO of BHP) has taken this decision to run with four or five pillars and I think the timing of that is spot on. I think it is a very inspired move.”

According to the report, Mr. Argus still defends his decision to merge with Billiton back in 2001 saying “it was right at the time and transformative for the company.”

The new BHP will be based on four key commodity “pillars” which are: iron ore, petroleum, copper and coal (with potash being a possible fifth pillar).

SpinCo will include most everything else in the portfolio including: Cannington silver-lead mine, nickel assets in Australia and Colombia and the bulk of their South African assets.

Read: Ex-BHP chair Don Argus calls $16b demerger ‘inspired’