Company BHP Billiton
Operations BHP is the world's largest miner, with products ranging from aluminum to zinc -- along with oil and gas -- and worldwide distribution.
Recent Price $89.32
Market Cap $242 billion
Trailing P/E Ratio 19.1
Return on Equity TTM 28.8%

When I previously heralded BHP Billiton (NYSE: BHP) -- the world's largest metals and mining company and no slouch in oil and gas production -- the Australian giant was busier than a teenager at prom time attempting to conclude a pair of relationships. Since then, while it's still as active as ever, BHP's focus has changed significantly.

As you likely recall, the company spent major portions of the past two years attempting to effect an iron ore joint venture with Rio Tinto (NYSE: RIO) in western Australia. That attempt followed an effort by BHP to acquire all of Rio. The proposed venture was scuttled, however, when it became obvious that the European Union -- along with regulators in Asia -- unequivocally intended to block the combination.

BHP also offered nearly $40 billion for Saskatchewan's PotashCorp (NYSE: POT), the world's biggest producer of a key compound used in fertilizers. That effort was also quashed, however, when it ran into headwinds from virtually throughout Canada. The company now is moving forward toward a likely effort to develop its own proposed Jansen Potash Project in Saskatchewan.

New directions
While massive flooding in central Queensland has quite literally dampened its coal operations, BHP has achieved record iron ore production and shipments in the first half of its financial year. At the same time, it has benefited from strong copper production and prices.

In November, its often overlooked petroleum operation became the first company to receive approval to drill a new well in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, following the lifting of the government-imposed deepwater drilling stoppage. Chevron (NYSE: CVX) and others had received permission to drill water injection wells at existing facilities during the moratorium.  

Finally, it's impossible to consider BHP without looking at the company's potential acquisitions. For some time, expectations of a run at Anadarko (NYSE: APC), the Gulf of Mexico's biggest independent oil company and likely the bearer of a $45 billion price tag, have been rampant. But with a question mark regarding Anadarko's financial liabilities relating to the Deepwater Horizon disaster, where it was a minority partner of BP (NYSE: BP), the possibility of BHP attempting such a purchase appears to have been shelved.

The bottom line
While intrigue will likely continue to shadow BHP, I remain convinced that the company constitutes an extremely compelling core holding.  

Chevron is a Motley Fool Income Investor pick. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't own shares in any of the companies named in this article. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.