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Mining Week 8/’13: BHP names new CEO

February 24, 2013 Comments off

Top Stories:

  • Oil man Andrew Mackenzie named BHP Billiton CEO
    • BHP Billiton announced this week that CEO Marius Kloppers will step down in May and will be succeeded by Andrew Mackenzie, the current head of the company’s non-ferrous division, who worked for BP for 22 years and who worked for Rio Tinto prior to joining BHP Billiton.
    • Sources: BHP Billiton press release; ABC interview; Youtube Reutersvideo
  • Iron ore prices at 16-month high
    • Benchmark iron ore prices rose to a 16-month high at approx. $160/t this week. A cyclone is nearing the Australian coast, potentially causing supply disruptions in the coming week.
    • Sources: CNBC; Indian Express

Trends & Implications:

  • BHPB’s appointment of a chief executive with extensive experience in the oil and gas business signals a further shift of focus from mining to natural resource extraction in general. Given the importance of cost control in the coming years, and considering the company’s asset base in oil and gas and the limited understanding of the oil and gas industry by most miners, appointing an insider with good knowledge of the full range of assets is a logical choice.
  • The increase of iron ore prices is expected to be a relatively short-term development driven by weather expectations and the annual cyclical demand of Chinese importers. which peaks in Q4 and Q1. Long-term price expectations are still much below the current level as additional production capacity is being added at a high pace.

2013 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Mining Week 6/’13: Government actions in South Africa and Argentina

February 10, 2013 Comments off

Top Stories:

  • Anglo and government clash in South Africa
    • Anglo announces mine closures resulting in thousands of job losses in its South African operations. In response the president threatened to review Anglo’s mining licenses, trying to force the company to keep the mines open. Mark Cutifani, Anglo’s new CEO, reacted with fierce criticism of the government’s attitude.
    • Mining companies in South Africa see a shift of union membership from the moderate NUM to the more radical Amcu, leading up to further wage negotiations this year.
    • Sources: Financial Times; Reuters; Financial Times 2
  • Vale and government clash in Argentina
    • Vale’s $6bln Rio Colorado potash project in the Mendoza project of Argentina is rumored to be delayed by up to 3 years, mainly driven by large rail investments. Vale announced it is reviewing the project economics and has therefore extended the holiday of the workers, but the company denies the project has been suspended.
    • The governor of the province told media that Vale has asked for delay of a sales tax implementation from construction to extraction phase, and argues that this would imply a tax break of $1.5-2.0bln. He also stressed that the government will make sure the project moves forward irrespective of Vale’s plans.
    • Sources: Vale press release; Financial Times; Mineweb

Trends & Implications:

  • The business environment for mining in South Africa remains very unstable. Not only the government’s ambition to get as much revenue out of mining as possible, resulting in top decile effective taxes, but also the radical approach of unions fighting to increase membership levels, create a situation in which long-term planning for any mining company in the country is almost impossible.
  • The business environment in Argentina has deteriorated quickly and appears to move into the direction of nationalization of business quickly. The government tries to get projects going in an attempt to stimulate the economy, but at the same time makes it impossible for companies to repatriate profits from those projects in an attempt to limit inflation. As a result there is no incentive for any foreign company to invest in the country for any short to mid-term gains. In the Rio Colorado case: A delay of the effect of sales tax to the extraction phase is unlikely to reduce tax paid by Vale by $1.5bln, as the company only starts selling its product in large quantities in that extraction phase.

2013 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Mining Week 4/’13: Caterpillar’s trouble & Bumi’s future

January 27, 2013 Comments off

Top Stories:

  • Caterpillar sees lower sales and fraud at Chinese acquisition
    • Caterpillar’s machinery sales declined 1% over the past 3 months, driven by poor results in AsiaPacific and North America.
    • The news of the mining slowdown hitting the top equipment manufacturer comes at the same time as the announcement of structural over reporting of profits at ERA Mining Machinery, the Chinese manufacturer bought for approx. $700m last year.
    • Sources: Caterpillar press release; Wall Street Journal; Financial Times
  • Bumi board favors Bakrie’s plans over Rothschild’s
    • The only two directors on Bumi’s board who Nathan Rothschild wanted to stay in function have sided with the rest of the board in the support for the plan to have the Bakrie family buy the Bumi Resources assets and separate from Bumi, which would be left with the Berau assets.
    • Rothschild and Bakrie have been in a dispute about the future of the London-listed miner with coal assets in Indonesia for several months. The company said this week that the decisions about the future structure of the group will not be impeded by the ongoing legal probe into financial practices at their assets.
    • Sources: Financial Times; Telegraph; Wall Street Journal

Trends & Implications:

  • The reduction of machinery sales at Caterpillar signals that the peak of new project development has passed. While miners raced to add capacity over the past years, many new projects are now put on hold or downsized. Although Caterpillar can expect to benefit from the forecasted rise increase of global resource requirements over the next decades, the fastest growth is over. Equipment manufacturers are a good indicator of overall growth outlook in the industry as their sales is directly linked to building of production capacity.
  • Bumi’s future appears to be that of an Asian-focused coal company without strong Indonesian shareholders. The tie-up of the Vallar cash shell with powerful Indonesian miners did create a significant player in the region, but the divergent views on corporate governance between the Indonesian and European-based owners has made it impossible to run the company effectively.

2013 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Mining Week 3’/13: New CEOs for Anglo American and Rio Tinto

January 19, 2013 Comments off

Top Stories:

  • Mark Cutifani is Anglo’s new CEO
    • Anglo announced the appointment of Mark Cutifani, CEO or AngloGold, as the new CEO, replacing Cynthia Carroll in April. The departure of Mrs. Carroll had been announced some time ago.
    • Mr. Cutifani has been heading AngloGold since 2007, working as COO of Inco before that. He is an Australian nation, but has extensive experience in South Africa, which should help Anglo to both manage the important government relations in South Africa and become less dependent on the country.
    • Sources: Anglo press release; Financial Times Videos; Wall Street Journal

  • Walsh replaces Albanese as CEO of Rio Tinto
    • Rio Tinto announced the sudden replacement of CEO Tom Albanese by Sam Walsh, who had been heading the company’s iron ore group since 2004. Albanese and Doug Ritchie, the head of the coal group, stepped down because of write-downs of $14bn on acquisitions, including $10-11bn on the acquisition of Alcan in 2008, and $3bn on recent coal acquisitions in Mozambique.
    • Sources: Rio Tinto press release; Reuters Videos; Wall Street Journal

Trends & Implications:

  • With the departure of Albanese as CEO of Rio Tinto, each of the top 5 diversified miners has a replacement of CEO in a timeframe of 2 years. Only BHP Billiton has not yet announced who the new CEO will be. The previous group of CEOs started their jobs during the high-growth period in which the size of their companies grew exponentially, and then had to lead the same companies through the global financial crisis and debt crisis. The new chief executives will have to manage the performance of their companies in a period of lower growth and potentially more stability in terms of asset base and outlook.

CEO_CFO Top5

2013 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Mining Week 1/’13: Anglo and Mittal sell iron ore assets

January 6, 2013 Comments off

Top Stories:

  • Anglo and Cliffs sell 5Mtpa Brazilian iron ore mine
    • Anglo American and Cliffs Natural Resources sell their 70% and 30% stakes in the Northern Brazilian Amapa iron ore mine to private miner Zamin Ferrous for approx. $400m. A year after buying their 70% share 4 years ago, Anglo took a $1.5bn writedown on the asset.
    • Sources: Anglo American; Financial Times; Reuters
  • Bumi looses $422m in derivatives trading
    • Bumi Resources, partly owned by Bumi plc and part of the dispute between the Bakri family and Nath Rotschild about the future of Bumi, posted a loss over the first 9 months of 2012 driven by low coal prices and a loss of over $400m on derivatives.
    • The loss on derivatives value was driven by a re-calculation of early payment rights, changing the discount rate of the value of that option from 5.25% to 17.2%.
    • Sources: Bumi Resources results; Financial Times; Wall Street Journal
  • ArcelorMittal sells 15% stake of Labrador Trough for $1.1bn
    • Cash-hungry steel maker and miner ArcelorMittal decided to sell a 15% stake of its Labrador Trough iron ore project in Canada to Chinese steel maker Posco and Taiwanese steel maker China Steel, also signing long-term offtake agreements.
    • Sources: ArcelorMittal press release; Financial Times; The Hindu

Trends & Implications:

  • The sale of iron ore mines or stakes by ArcelorMittal and AngloAmerican signal 2 different trends in the industry:
    • The large miners are actively divesting non-core assets, trying to focus management attention and funding on the large operations and development projects.
    • Many companies are having trouble securing the funds required to execute the enormous development projects that are currently in execution phase in the iron ore industry. Forming partnerships and selling minority stakes is often the cheapest way to obtain funding.
  • The loss reported by Bumi Resouces is not a sign of mismanagement, but rather a sign of cleaning up the books and trying to make sure the assets listed are actually worth what they are listed for. Valuation of options is a highly subjective art, and the management of Bumi Resources apparently chose to take the revaluation hit at a moment when low coal prices were forces the results into the red anyway.

2013 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Mining Weekly 52/’12: Copper Wars continued, South African taxes

December 24, 2012 Comments off

Top Stories:

  • Copper Wars: First Quantum raises takeover bid for Inmet
    • Almost 2 years after the consolidation in the copper mining industry was accelerated by the proposed merger of Lundin and Inmet, First Quantum is trying to take over Inmet to form a major copper producer. Inmet’s board rejected two earlier, lower bids, and is now facing a $5.1bn takover offer.
    • The proposed Lundin-Inmet (Symterra) merger did not materialize because Equinox made a takeover bid for Lundin, after which Equinox was acquired by Barrick, which ‘won’ a bidding war with Minmetals.
    • In attempts to get the Cobre Panama project funded Inmet earlier this year sold a stream with most of the planned precious metals production to royalty company Franco Nevada for an investment of approx. $1bn.
    • Sources: Wall Street Journal; Financial Times; Newsday

    Copper Wars - Inmet - First Quantum

  • ANC will not nationalize South African mines, but wants to increase taxes
    • The ruling ANC party has turned down a plan to nationalize the mining sector in the country. At the same time the party leaders do call for increased taxes to keep a larger part of the benefits from natural resource extraction in the country. No details on the tax increases have been given yet.
    • Sources: The Globe and Mail; Wall Street Journal; Financial Times

Trends & Implications:

  • The copper industry is in a phase of consolidation because many large development projects are in the hands of relatively small miners who don’t have the funds to develop the large projects on their own. With project pipelines being scrutinized in the light of slowing demand growth, large miners are searching for and buying those projects that are actually going to make it, and small miners with and without good development projects try to team up to combine operating assets with strong development projects.
  • South Africa is already one of the countries with the highest effective tax rates to mining companies in the world, combining a 28% income tax rate with a 10% secondary tax, and adding mining royalties depending on the mineral mined. Further tax increases will make it very unlikely that foreign companies try to enter into the South African mining landscape, but will also make it more attractive for the large South African players to try to expand abroad.

2012 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Mining Weekly 51/’12: Freeport, Xstrata, & Bumi

December 16, 2012 Comments off

Top Stories of December:

  • Freeport diversifies further into oil & gas
    • Copper miner Freeport McMoran surprised the market by acquiring two American oil & gas companies for approx. $9bn, taking on a lot of target debt to make a total deal size of approx. $20bn, the second largest acquisition in the industry this year.
    • Freeport did not request shareholder approval for the diversifying acquisitions, leaving a large part of the shareholder base unhappy with the deal and the stock price dropping approx. 15%.
    • Sources: Freeport presentation; Wall Street Journal; Financial Times
  • Xstrata puts Tampakan project on hold
    • Xstrata’s $5.9bn Tampakan copper project in the Philippines is put on hold while waiting for government approvals: the federal government doesn’t want to give the go ahead before the mining law is reformed, and the local government is opposing the issuance of an environmental permit based on a ban on open pit mining.
    • Sources: Reuters; Sagittarius / Xstrata
  • Bumi, Bakrie, and Rotschild continue their fight
    • The board of Bumi plc has indicated that it favors the Bakrie offer to buy out the assets of the Indonesian coal producer over Rothschilds offer to increase the stake in those assets. Bakrie’s offer implies that the shared ownership of assets by Bumi and Bakrie comes to an end.
    • The board also indicated that it does not intend to sell the stakes in Berau to Bakrie, which would mean the company does not completely revert to a cash shell.
    • Sources: Financial Times 1, 2; Jakarta Post

Trends & Implications:

  • Deloitte published its annual report with the top trends in the mining industry for the coming year: on top of the list is the continued high cost of doing business, which is forcing many companies to reconsider development projects (see Tampakan above). The full list of trends is:
      Deloitte - tracking the trends 2013

    • Counting the costs: Paying the price of bullish behavior
    • Managing demand uncertainty: Conflicting market indicators magnify volatility
    • Capital project deceleration: Quality trumps quantity in the project pipeline
    • Preparing for the M&A storm: Market indicators point to rising deal volumes
    • Governments eye the mining prize: Resource nationalism remains
    • Combating corruption: Miners are being held to higher standards
    • Climbing the social ladder: A new level of responsible behavior
    • Plugging the talent gap: Skills shortages still loom
    • Playing it safe: Using analytics to generate insights and improve safety outcomes
    • At the IT edge: Getting the most out of emerging – and existing – technologies
  • Xstrata’s decision to put the Tampakan project, one of the largest development projects in the copper industry, on hold fits two trends: the increasing importance of alignment with both federal and local governments in developing countries, especially around when governments and legislature are changing; and the hesitance to undertake any large investments in a time of rising costs and uncertainty around demand growth.

2012 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Check my latest column in the free online journal The International Resource Journal on the importance of iron ore derivatives.

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