BHP polishes up nickel unit as demerger talk swirls
* BHP has made breakthroughs in the way it processes nickel
* Could make it easier to find buyer for Nickel West division in Australia
* Nickel, aluminium, manganese businesses targeted for disposal
By James Regan
SYDNEY, April 11 (Reuters) - Breakthroughs in the way BHP Billiton processes nickel ores could help the world's biggest miner find a buyer for its ailing Nickel West division in Australia.
Nickel West is among businesses that also include aluminium and manganese which BHP has grouped into a single division set aside in 2012 for underperforming assets deemed non-core to its portfolio.
BHP has said it is actively studying the "next phase of simplification" of the company but declined to comment on media reports that senior executives favoured a demerger.
Chief Executive Andrew Mackenzie has said BHP will focus on its large iron ore, copper, coal and petroleum businesses, while selling off smaller, less profitable operations.
Macquarie Bank last month in a research note put a value of $4.6 billion on the nickel assets. Continuación...