Mining Week 05/’12: Glencore and Xstrata move towards merger
What is happening with Glencore and Xstrata?
- For several years Xstrata and Glencore, with over 30% its largest shareholder, have been linked in rumors of mergers. This week both companies released statements to announce that Glencore has now officially started the merger procedure. As a result Glencore is required to come up with an official proposal by early March. However, analysts expect an agreement to be reached much faster.
- Glencore is the world’s largest commodity trader and also owns operating assets for several commodities, most notably copper, zinc, and coal.
- Xstrata is the world’s 4th-largest diversified miner, grown rapidly in the past decade by a series of acquisitions.
- Last year Glencore became a public company, putting an official market value on the company. This step was seen as a requirement to convince Xstrata’s other shareholders to discuss a merger.
Why does a merger make sense?
- Although the mining industry only very slowly moves in this direction it makes sense to combine raw material production and marketing and processed goods production and marketing in one company. The vertical control over the value chain provides flexibility to react to sudden opportunities in the global marketplace. The 3 pictures below illustrate Glencore’s view of these arbitrage opportunities: geographical, product, and timing arbitrage. The larger the company is and the more overlap between marketing and production, the larger the rationale for merging. Estimated synergies of the Glencore-Xstrata merger are close to $1bln annually, mainly due to increased revenues (whereas most mining related M&A is driven by cost reducing synergies).
What could go wrong?
Two important things could make the merger fail. The first could even prevent it from happening at all:
- 1. Antitrust – Glencore is the absolute market leader in trading of various commodities. Any increase of power in these areas would trigger action by antitrust regulators around the world. To get approved, the deal will have to be structured in a way that ensures both supply substitution and demand substitution; i.e. all market parties should be able to get around Glencore-Xstrata as customer or as supplier.
- 2. Corporate culture – Glencore is a company built on the two-thousand marketeers & traders, while Xstrata is run like a typical conservative mining company. Traders are typically very smart, aggressive, impatient, rational, office-workers. Miners are ‘roll up your sleeves’, ‘move the dirt’, operational guys with only very few of the highly schooled trading-types among them. To make these two groups of people not only work together smoothly, but to integrate the companies so that departmental interests and emotions are fully aligned with the larger companies objectives is going to be a major challenge, in which many employees from both sides might choose to leave the company to find a place where they are more comfortable.
©2012 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com