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Posts Tagged ‘development’

Mining Week 04/’12: First test for Vale’s CEO vs. Brazilian government

January 29, 2012 Comments off

Top Stories of the Week:

  • Vale starts to fight back against tax rulings
    • Vale announced its plans to appeal to the governments intent to charge $5.6bln worth of taxes on foreign earnings. The clash with the government promises to be the first real test for the new CEO Murilo Ferreira.
    • Mr. Ferreira took over the leadership of the company from Roger Agnelli, who was not reelected partly based on a disagreement with the government (which is control Vale via state-controlled shareholders) over $2bln taxation.
    • Sources: Vale press release; Financial Times; Bloomberg
  • Rio Tinto assumes full control of Oyu Tolgoi

Trends & Implications:

  • Vale estimates the impact of a review of the tax code on the company’s earnings to be approx. 4-5% of earnings. Taxation regimes around the world for specifically iron ore and copper mining are reviewed to make the countries benefit more from ‘extreme’ profits, which could be seen as a temporary phenomenon. However, the key issue in Vale is facing now is a debate about double taxation; paying taxes over profits after taxes realized in countries where the company is operating.
  • Rio Tinto’s control over Ivanhoe will help the company to put in place its management structure and have the project managed by some of its top project developers. Gaining full control of the project in this stage will help Rio Tinto to build the project according to the company’s standards, preventing costly and above all time-consuming future transitions in the operating structure. The global standards that enable effective project management more and more set the world’s largest miners apart from the ‘small’ mining firms with only a few operating assets. Very much like GE has become known as a great ‘project management company’, the world’s largest miners are more and more developing into ‘mine development’ companies in which development speed is the key success factor and navigating politics in developing countries is a key skill.

 

©2012 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Miners, Supply, and Cost Pressures

September 6, 2011 Comments off

“Building new mines is getting costlier, thanks to higher energy and wage bills as well as equipment shortages. Investing in new copper mines is 50% more expensive in real terms than the average since 1985, HSBC estimates. This acts as a brake on new growth projects. Tighter regulation also slows development; Anglo American estimates getting the right permits to set up a new mine in Australia takes three years now, compared with one year back in 2006.

Many analysts and investors, however, are well aware of the industry’s shortcomings already. Commodities consultant Brook Hunt says it discounts planned industry production growth by 25% for brownfield projects, and by 50% for totally new projects. For a key commodity like copper, it also discounts production forecasts by 5% per year to allow for strikes or poor weather.

Even so, it expects more aluminum, nickel, lead and zinc to be mined ion 2012 than will be consumed, with only the markets for lead and zinc falling into deficit thereafter. It expects the copper market to be in balance next year and surplus thereafter and the iron-ore market to approach balance by 2015.”

Source: Wall Street Journal, September 6 2011

Observations:

  • All large miners report increasing costs, but the high commodity prices still help them to retain profit margins. Large projects are typically phased so that development costs can be controlled per phase.
  • In its latest annual results presentation BHP Billiton reported the increase of capital intensity of iron ore production (for BHP mainly in Western Australia). Costs per tonne of capacity currently are around $200, while pre-crisis costs were below $100 per annual tonne.

Implications:

  • The issue of cost pressures will partly solve itself when demand falls and prices decrease: demand for labor and equipment will fall too, enabling cost cutting.
  • The difficulties of capacity increases is more fundamental: new projects have lower grades, are more remote and located in less stable areas politically, leading to both high costs and more effort required to set up a financially stable project.

©2011 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Top 10 Priorities of Vale’s new CEO Murilo Ferreira

June 22, 2011 Comments off

Murilo Ferreira

The world’s second largest mining company has changed the man at the top. Roger Agnelli, who led the company for almost 10 years, was replaced by Murilo Ferreira last month. Though Agnelli grew the company into a global force in the industry, he did not manage to please the Brazilian government sufficiently. As a result the new president, Dilma Rousseff, pushed for a change. What is on top of the “To Do”-list for the new CEO?

An analysis of Vale’s latest annual and financial reports, the press conference to introduce the new CEO, investor presentations, and the news about the company in the latest months yields a list of 10 issues that are likely to be at the top of Ferreira’s list of priorities.

The list holds strategic, operational, financial and relational activities, each of which are scored in terms of importance and urgency. Priority 1 on the list is to build strong government relationships; priority 10 is to expand the metallurgical coal business in Latin America. Read on for the full list of priorities. For those readers working with Vale: don’t hesitate to forward the list to mr. Ferreira.

1. Build government relationships

Mr. Agnelli grew the company, but he did not manage to please the Brazilian government. The government controls the majority of the voting shares, and hopes to use Vale as a means to stimulate the domestic economy. The key task for mr. Ferreira will be to build strong government relationships without giving in to government requests which would hurt general shareholder value.

2. Develop strategic messages

A first step for each CEO after taking office is to get the key messages to be repeated over and over again to investors and employees. Especially Vale’s communication to the investor world has historically been poor. Selecting the key points to tell to the world the coming year(s) and tuning the communication and communication support is an important task during these first months.

3. Discuss tax & royalty claims

Related to the first point of building government relationships: the government claims a total of $16.0bln tax over the period 1996 to 2008 plus some $4.7bln in royalties (CFEM). Furthermore, Vale’s current effective tax rate is some 10% below official tax rate because of various tax incentives, for which the continuation is not sure. Reaching agreement with the authorities about these claims and the future tax incentives is crucial for the share price to increase.

4. Build global culture, integrate & decentralize

One of the key points mentioned in mr. Ferreira’s first press conference as CEO was the change of the company style towards a more decentralized system in which team work is incentivized more. Next to driving execution mr. Ferreira will need to be the living example of a global cultural change, in which each part of the business feels equally valuable.

5. Manage vertical integration in Brazilian steelmaking

The next (potential) issue with the Brazilian government is Vale’s role in the Brazilian steelmaking industry. The government wants to create a strong vertically integrated player, and therefore needs Vale to cooperate with players like Gerdau and Usiminas. Although it is in Vale’s best interest to stimulate domestic demand for iron ore to offset the disadvantage in transportation costs to supply the Asian market versus Australian mines, the company wants to stay a pure miner. Developing and discussing strategic options for the domestic industry will be an important task for mr. Ferreira to demonstrate his leadership.

6. Solve roadblocks for development execution

Vale plans to invest $17.5bln in new project development this year, but various projects run the risk of delay. Most roadblocks have to do with demands by federal and regional governments (e.g. the temporary suspension of the Rio Colorado project in Argentina), signalling the requirement to more proactively involve governments in planning procedures.

7. Manage operating cost pressures

A key competitive advantage to Vale is the low cost base of its operations in Brazil. The risk of lower iron ore prices forces mr. Ferreira to try to keep costs down at a time of cost inflation. Especially the management of the energy matrix (energy costs account for over 15% of COGS) and of outsourced services, which are sensitive to Brazilian wage inflation, will require management attention.

8. Compete for position in China

A key task for any big mining firm this decade is to fight for pole position in supplying the number one growth market: China. Mr. Agnelli secured various lucrative supply deals, but Vale did not yet sign significant partnerships. Mr. Ferreira has limited experience with the Chinese market and will thus need to spend time on getting to know the key players and developing relationships which are important for both future development and future supply contracts.

9. Transform internationalization organization

Vale still is a very much Brazilian company: out of the 120 thousand workers (incl. 40% contractors) 80% is located in Brazil. However, this Brazilian focus is starting to hinder the company in attracting international investors, customers, and employees. Even press conference in which new CEO was presented was conducted in Portuguese, certainly posing an obstacle to some investors. Appointing CEO with experience of working in North America is step in the right direction, but mr. Ferreira will need to do more to improve the international image of his company.

10. Build metallurgical coal business in Latin America

Partly driven by the need to diversify the company’s revenue base (68% of revenue still comes from iron ore & pellets, with an even higher percentage when looking at profits), partly driven by the need to build the domestic steel industry, Vale needs to gain access to metallurgical coal close to home. The company operates thermal coal mines in Brazil, but metallurgical coals needs to be imported. Exploration in Colombia is promising, but more needs to be done to build the coal business.

Sources: Vale annual report 2010, Vale CEO press conference May 2011, Vale investor presentation February 2011

©2011 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

PWC: Mine 2011 – The game has changed

June 13, 2011 Comments off

Accountant and consultancy PWC launched its annual review of the mining industry: Mine 2011. The report analyzes the financial performance of the 40 largest listed mining companies and describes the underlying trends in the industry:

“Last year we highlighted the growing optimism in the mining industry and demand fundamentals that were driving the industry back to boom times. The 2010 results have delivered on this expectation, but it is clear that the game has changed.

  • Combined net profits hit $100 billion
  • Operating cash flows up 59%, leaving more than $100 billion cash on hand
  • Emerging market miners outperform traditional players
  • Capital expenditure of $300 billion announced
  • Supply and cost management key challenges

Revenues for the world’s 40 largest miners leapt 32% to a record $435 billion, driven by surging commodity prices and a 5% increase in production output in 2010.The strong top-line result catapulted the miners’ net profits to an impressive $110 billion – a 156% increase over the previous year.”

Source: PWC, June 2011

Key takeaways:

  • PWC argues that the cost base for many commodities has shifted, resulting in a fundamental change in the supply structure that justifies the commodity price increase. This shift of the cost structure is partly caused by downstream players entering the mining market with a focus more on supply security than on cost effectiveness.
  • The report further shows that the capital expenditure in the industry is still very much lagging the increase in profits, further creating a situation of supply shortage: “In 2010 for every dollar earned in revenue only 18 cents were invested, significantly lower than the 40 cents invested per dollar of revenue in 2007 and the 2003-2009 average of 26 cents per dollar. In 2010 Investing cash flows were only 58% of operating cash flows, compared to an average of 94% for 2003-2009.”
  • New players in the global top 40 are: Agnico-Eagle Mines, Coal India, Industrias Penoles, KGHM Polska Miedz, Shandong Gold Mining, and Silver Wheaton.

More consultant’s reports? See the Business of Mining special ‘Free consulting: Mining industry reports’

©2011 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

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