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On Jan 23, 2013, BHP Billiton Limited (BHP - Analyst Report), a natural resources company, reported improved half-year production data for most of its business segments.

BHP saw a year-over-year increase in production across most of its products including petroleum, alumina, copper, iron, manganese ore and energy coal in the December 2012 half. However, production of some products like aluminium, nickel, lead, silver, and manganese alloy declined year over during the period.

Among all products, majority of the decline was seen in diamonds, which went down 35% against the previous half year. As a reminder, last quarter BHP agreed to sell its stake in the EKATI Diamond Mine and Diamonds Marketing operations for US$500 million in cash. The sale, subject to regulatory approvals, is expected to be completed by the first half of 2013.

BHP expects production of iron ore and petroleum to increase in the next half ending in June 2013. The company is hopeful that production from its major iron ore facility, Western Australian Iron Ore (WAIO), would increase by as much as 5% in the financial year 2013. Also, a production of 240 million barrels of petroleum is expected for financial year 2013.

Recently, in mid-Jan, another mining giant Rio Tinto Plc. (RIO - Analyst Report) also reported its production update for the quarter ended Dec 31, 2012. The company posted an increase in almost all of its products for the quarter. 

BHP is expected to release its half year earnings results on Feb 20, 2013. The Zacks Consensus Estimate stands at $1.12 for the half year 2013. The company has roughly 20 projects in various development stages, which are likely to contribute significantly to the profitability in the upcoming quarters.

The stock currently holds a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Other stocks worth a look in the industry are Denison Mines Corp. (DNN - Snapshot Report) and New Gold Inc. (NGD - Snapshot Report); both holding a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

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