MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Hedge fund Elliott Management has raised its stake in BHP Billiton <BHP.AX> <BLT.L> to 5 percent, stepping up a campaign to make the top global miner quit all or part of its petroleum business, boost returns and ditch its dual listing.
New York-based Elliott launched its effort in April, at which point it held a 4.1 percent "economic interest" in BHP's UK-listed shares, and later increased that to 4.5 percent.
Elliott said on Wednesday it now holds 5 percent of BHP's UK-listed shares, and also holds a small economic interest in BHP's Australian shares.
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"Recent statements by the company give us confidence that Chairman-elect Ken MacKenzie will heed shareholders' calls to take constructive steps to enhance value for BHP and its owners," Elliott said in a statement.
Those steps include exiting the U.S. shale business "and an in-depth, open and truly independent review of the petroleum business' place in BHP's portfolio," Elliott said.
"We and other shareholders look forward to hearing more from management on this subject, following the growing analyst and shareholder consensus that BHP should exit U.S. shale," the hedge fund said.
BHP, which up to now has rejected Elliott's overhaul proposals as flawed, declined to comment on Elliott's statement.
However the company has acknowledged that it paid far too much when it entered the shale business and in the long run will look to get out of it when the time is right.
MacKenzie has been canvassing shareholders worldwide ahead of taking up his position as chairman on Sept. 1.
The latest move by Elliott reflected increased confidence in the company's direction, said investment manager Rohan Walsh of Melbourne-based Karara Capital, which owns shares in BHP.
"They are showing conviction in the prospects of the business," he said.
Elliott said last month it had deep concerns over a BHP proposal to enter the currently over-supplied fertilizer market, reiterating its call for change at the mining giant.
BHP will report its full year financial results next week.
(Reporting by Sonali Paul and Melanie Burton; Editing by Richard Pullin)