- The opinions are the author’s own -

No one doubts BHP Billiton is the smartest, most innovative mining company in the world. It has shaken up a once-sleepy sector and transformed pricing and marketing of raw materials from copper to coal and iron ore.
BHP is the mining sector’s Goldman Sachs. It employs the best minds and campaigns to change practices which have been long-established but which the firm considers outdated in a successful quest to unlock immense value for its shareholders.

According to the firm’s website “At BHP Billiton we’re looking for people who want to grow with us around the globe, take chances and stand out from the crowd. We need people who embrace tomorrow, have vision, love stretching their minds and going far beyond what they thought was achievable.”

But like Goldman, BHP’s success has come at a price. The company is unloved. BHP’s success has bred envy among its competitors. Worse, the company’s aggressiveness has made it a host of enemies among competitors, customers and regulators. Now that backlash is hampering the company’s ambitions to grow.

In the past few decades, the company which revels in its nickname as the Big Australian has found itself embroiled in acrimonious battles with China over the price of copper and iron ore; steelmakers in Europe and Asia over pricing; Australia’s Labor Party over mineral taxes; and competition authorities around the world over the proposed takeover and later the joint venture with Rio Tinto, both now abandoned.

While BHP has won many battles, it has left a legacy of bitterness and mistrust, which is now shaping the reception of big deals. Regulators in particular have become very sceptical when reviewing the firm’s plans.