BHP Billition plc (BHP) - Get BHP Group Ltd Sponsored ADR Report posted stronger-than-expected first half earnings Tuesday and boosted its interim divided thanks to a surge in global commodity prices and an optimistic outlook for 2017.

BHP said profits for the six months ending in December surged to $3.24 billion, just missing analysts' forecasts of $3.4 billion but nearly 8 times higher than the $412 million posted in the same period last year. Net debt at the world's biggest miner fell to $20.1 billion, BHP said, from $26.4 billion.

The figures allowed the group to lift its interim dividend to 40 cents a share, up 150% from the same period last year and firmly ahead of the 32 cent forecast. 

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"This is a strong result that follows several years of a considered and deliberate approach to improve productivity and redesign our portfolio and operating model," said CEO Andrew Mackenzie. "Our steadfast commitment to this plan has positioned us to take full advantage in a period of higher prices with Underlying EBITDA up 65 per cent to US$9.9 billion."

BHP shares traded 0.4% lower by 10:15 GMT to change hands at 1,39.5 pence each in London. The shares have risen more than 11% over the past three months but have lagged the 20% advance for the FTSE 350 Miners Index.