BHP announced a record dividend, up 15% to US$0.68 per share, and representing a payout ratio to 69%. It also promised to return net proceeds from its US$10.8 billion onshore US exit to shareholders. Improving shareholder returns through regular buy-backs was one of the three main proposals from Elliott Advisors, making initiation of a share buy back program before the end of the year a high possibility. With surging commodity prices BHP's balance sheet has gone from strength to strength. Net debt is now at the lower end of its target range of US$10-15 billion and gearing has fallen to 15%.