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BHP announces $5.2 billion share buyback, keeps promise to return U.S. Onshore asset sale proceeds

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(Reuters) – BHP <BHP.AX> will start an off-market buyback of $5.2 billion (£4 billion) of its shares immediately, with the remainder of the proceeds from its U.S. onshore assets sale to be returned in the form of a special dividend, the global miner said on Thursday.

The world’s biggest miner had promised in July to return the $10.5 billion in sale proceeds to shareholders. It also announced the completion of the sale of its interests in Eagle Ford, Haynesville and Permian Onshore U.S. oil and gas assets to BP’s <BP.L> local unit.

Under its buyback plan, the miner reserves the right to buy back its BHP Billiton Limited shares at an up to 14 percent discount.

It set Dec. 17 as the day it will decide the per share amount for its special dividend once the off-market buyback is completed, based on the reduced amount of shares on issue.

Across the mining sector, a trend to hand money back to shareholders has gathered steam following a recovery from the mining and commodity crash of 2015-16 and pressure from investors not to waste growing piles of cash on buying up assets that may never deliver returns.

“Returning this US$10.4 billion will bring the total cash returned to shareholders to US$21 billion over the last two years,” BHP Chief Executive Officer Andrew Mackenzie said.

(Reporting by Nikhil Kurian Nainan in Bengaluru; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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