The hedge fund Elliot Advisors says its has found broad support from fellow BHP shareholders for an independent review of the company's petroleum business.

"Our shareholder conversations have revealed extremely broad and deep-rooted support for proactive steps to be taken by management to achieve an optimal value outcome," Elliot said in a letter to BHP's board.  It's part of Elliot's campaign to force BHP to spin off its US petroleum business for listing in New York and to return more cash to shareholders through buybacks.

"Current management's response to our Value Unlock Plan has been inflexible and defensive, showing instead that they prefer to do nothing new to improve performance and to optimize shareholder value from BHP's first-class portfolio of assets," Elliott says.

BHP's chief executive Andrew Mackenzie is in Barcelona for the Bank of America Merrill Lynch investment conference to talk up the company's plans to significantly grow long term shareholder value.  The statement from Elliot seems timed to force Mr. Mackenzie to address its proposals.  A delegation from Elliott, which has built up a 4.1 percent stake in BHP's UK-listed arm, will be there as well.