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Posts Tagged ‘diamonds’

Mining Week 33/’12: Coal, copper, iron ore profit drops

August 13, 2012 Comments off

Top Stories of the Week:

  • Harry Winston chooses between BHP’s and Rio’s diamond business
    • Harry Winston, the diamond retailer that holds a 40% stake in Rio Tinto’s Diavik mine in Northern Canada, is in talks with BHP Billiton to buy the Ekati operation, also in the north of Canada. Both Rio Tinto and BHP are trying to get out of the diamond business as they can’t realize the scale in the industry to make it a core business.
    • Titan, part of the Tata group, is rumoured to be interested in an acquisition of Harry Winston and might emerge as a competitor in the consolidation movement in the diamond business with strong financial backing.
    • Sources: Wall Street Journal; Financial Times
  • Xstrata’s profit drops on prices and volumes
    • Xstrata’s operating profit for the first half year dropped by 42%. Approx. half of the drop is attributed to lower commodity prices, the other half mainly to inflation and lower volumes.
    • An important message communicated in Xstrata’s earnings presentation is the potential of the company to continue stand-alone in case the share acquisition by Glencore (supported by Xstrata management) fails. Xstrata’s shareholders get to vote on the deal on September 7th.
    • Sources: Financial Times 1; Financial Times 1; Xstrata presentation
  • Rio Tinto profits down on lower coal and iron ore prices

Trends & Implications:

  • Xstrata is among the few companies that manages to communicate (or achieve) a unit cost reduction in its earnings presentation, probably the largest driver of positive reception of the quarterly numbers by the investment community. By breaking out the ‘uncontrollable’ inflation part the company communicates it has success in cost cutting, even though nominal costs increased year on year.
  • Most large miners are stressing the discipline of their capital investments in the latest presentations they are giving, promising only to invest if a good return can be achieved. The most prominent example of a potential cutback on capital expenditure is BHP’s announcement that it is reviewing the expansion of the outer harbour in Western Australia required to lift iron ore export capacity to the planned level. While trying hard to show the investments are responsible, the companies also try to communicate that ‘the industry fundamentals’ are still solid, mainly using the projected long-term growth of China as explanation. However, Rio Tinto’s updated demand forecast graphs are among the first that show a negative Chinese trend after 2030 (in line with the model presented on this site). Knowing that a large part of current big projects in iron ore and coal are planned to build capacity for more than 20 years these long-term prospects slowly start to make their way into investment decision-making.

©2012 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Mining Week 49/’11: Changes at the top

December 4, 2011 Comments off

Top Stories of the Week:

  • Vanselow quits as BHP CFO
    • After 5 years as CFO of the world’s largest miner Alex Vanselow (Brazilian national) announced he will step down and look for a CEO position in the industry. Mr. Vanselow managed to get BHP through the economic downturn in great financial shape (helped by high commodity prices). His recent experience in acquisitions of Chesapeake assets and Petrohawk and the failed acquisitions of Rio Tinto, Potashcorp, and the failed Pilbara JV with Rio Tinto, make him an interesting candidate for any resources company looking to grow by M&A.
    • Sources: BHP Billiton Press Release; Financial Times; Wall Street Journal
  • Codelco and Anglo continue their copper fight
    • In a legal fight over the rights to the Anglo American Sur project Anglo’s lawyers blame Codelco and the Chilean government to act unfairly. Codelco holds an option to buy 49% of the project, but it is unclear whether that is only of Anglo’s stake or of the total project.
    • Sources: Financial Times; Anglo American Press Release; Codelco Press Releases
  • BHP Billiton gets out of diamonds
    • BHP Billiton announced it will review its options around its only diamond project: Ekati diamond mine in arctic Canada. Rio Tinto, which owns the nearby Diavik diamond mine, is the most likely buyer because of the synergistic potential and the lack of funds and abundance of capital spending needs of other large diamond miners.
    • Sources: BHP Billiton Press Release; Financial Times; MiningMx

Trends & Implications:

  • Mr. Vanselow will be an interesting candidate for global companies looking for a change of CEO. As Brazil’s Vale recently changed CEO and Petrobras’ Gabrielli de Azevedo is widely recognized as a strong CEO with work to do he will most likely look to head up a foreign player. The ideal period for a CEO is typically seen as 6-8 years: after that a new point of view and a new alignment with the personality needed for the phase of a company is often helpful. Taking a look at the top positions of the world’s largest miners at this moment, several CEO position changes can be expected over the coming years.

©2011 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Mining Week 45/’11: Anglo takes control of De Beers

November 6, 2011 Comments off

Top Stories of the Week:

  • Anglo American adds 40% to its 45% stake of De Beers to gain control
    • Anglo American agreed to pay $5.1bln to the Oppenheimer family to gain control of diamond miner De Beers. The other 15% are owned by the government of Botswana. De Beers changed CEO in May of this year and tried to strengthen partnerships and simplify the ownership structure.
    • Sources: Anglo American press release; Wall Street Journal
  • China: 8 die, 45 rescued in coal mine disaster
    • A blast in a state-owned underground coal mine killed eight miners. 45 miners that were initially trapped underground were rescued within two days via a rapidly excavated tunnel.
    • Sources: AFP; Wall Street Journal

Trends & Implications:

  • Diamonds already accounted for 11% of Anglo American’s revenues, and will get close to 20% now. The simplified ownership structure will help De Beers to undertake the large investments in both new project development and modernization of current operations required to retain its leadership position in the global diamond business. Additionally, Anglo Americans global footprint will help De Beers to diversify its production footprint, which is still heavily skewed towards Botswana.
  • Safety in Chinese mines is still far below Western standards, but under pressure of federal regulation the situation is improving rapidly. Unsafe mines are often forced to close temporarily, and rescue teams are becoming better equipped to safe the lives of trapped miners. Official numbers show a 2/3 decrease of fatalities in the past 10 years. However,the surge of coal demand in the country is putting the safety improvements under pressure, as mine management is willing to go a long way to increase output.

©2011 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Anglo American lifted by commodities boom

July 29, 2011 Comments off

“Anglo American has taken advantage of booming commodities prices to boost its interim pre-tax profits by more than two-thirds. A flight to safety among nervous investors has driven up prices for precious metals and diamonds, buoying first-half revenues by more than a fifth at the FTSE 100 miner and prompting Anglo to increase its dividend by 12 per cent.

Strong demand in China has also pushed up prices for iron ore and copper, helping Anglo shrug off the weak US dollar and harsh weather conditions in South Africa and Australia, which included the extensive flooding in Queensland earlier this year.

Anglo has an investment pipeline of $66bn to develop its iron ore and copper mines in South America and coal projects in Australia in order to reap the rewards of booming commodity prices.”

Source: Fincial Times, July 29 2011

Observations:

  • Good financial performance was offset by very poor safety performance: the group recorder 10 fatalities in the last 6 months (8 in the platinum business).
  • $450mln of the revenues (11%) are achieved in De Beers’ diamond business. Iron ore & Manganese (26%) and Platinum (23%) account for the largest share of Anglo’s revenues. Iron ore & Manganese (29%) and Copper (28%) bring in the largest part of the earnings, driven by particularly high commodity prices.

Implications:

  • Focus of Anglo American’s presentation was on expanding production (capex of $2.3bln for 2011H1 with pipeline of $66bln) and on cost control. The company’s operating profit compared to the same period last year suffered from $500mln higher cash costs. Input cost pressures were explained in detail in the investor presentation (see below) For each product the management presented initiatives for cost reduction.
  • Iron ore volumes (-12%) and metallurgical coal volumes (-19%) were down compared to the same period in the previous year, caused by weather disruptions that put BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto in the same position. It will be interesting to see the method of reporting the volumes next year if production can go on without interruptions. Higher volumes will then most likely be presented as significant achievements, without any mention of the disruptions of this year.

©2011 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Russia: Silent Mining Giant

June 16, 2011 Comments off

Although Russia accounts for about 14% of global mining, most professionals in the industry know very little about Russian mining. Apart from a few large steel companies most large Russian mining firms are unknown in the market, and few people could name the most important Russian mines or mining districts. However, driven by the huge potential of its reserves and the modernization of its industry the country is slowly gaining a more prominent position on the international mining stage.
This article explores the current situation of the Russian mining industry and identifies two key trends that will shape it in the next decade: a struggle for competitiveness; and internationalization of the key players.

Russia’s Reserves & Production

Figure 1 - Russian mining production and reserves

Russia has been blessed with a large variety of mineral reserves across the country. The peninsulas in the northwest, the Ural mountains, Siberia, and the Far East all house important mining districts. Crucial inputs for economic development, like iron ore and coal, are abundant. The country holds 15-20% of the world’s reserves for these resources. The country’s position in reserves of gold and diamonds is very strong too. For a few minerals with only a small global market, like palladium and magnesium compounds, the country even has the potential of dominating the market. The most important observation when comparing the share of world reserves and the share of current global production is that for almost all key minerals the share of reserves exceeds the share of production (See Figure 1). In other words; it is likely that Russia will become more important in the global mining industry.

Current production in the country is more than sufficient to satisfy domestic demand, making Russia a net exporter of mineral goods. The country’s net export balance for ores, slag & ash was $1.3bln and for iron & steel over $14bln in 2010 (Source: ITC), with China being the largest trade partner for ores and Italy being the primary (initial) destination of Russian iron & steel.

Balancing domestic supply and demand

Russia is growing, and mining is needed to fuel this growth. Russian annual GDP growth varied from 4.7% to 8.1% in the period 2001-2008, outpacing growth in the western world (Figure 2). The economic crisis has hit Russia hard, making the economy shrink by almost 8% in 2009; recovering by 3.8% in 2010. However, growth is expected to outpace western growth in the coming years.

As a result of the high growth of the domestic economy, various industry development could take shape. If productivity increases, the potential of Russian reserves will enable a combination of exports and domestic sales, enabling rapid growth. However, if the Russian companies do not succeed in significantly increasing capacity, productivity will be too low to support both domestic and foreign growth. In this case export restrictions to protect the national growth could be instituted.

Corporate Landscape

The structure of Russia’s current mining production is largely shaped in the Soviet period. Mining districts were set up to provide the country with mineral self-sufficiency decades ago. After privatization in the ‘90s most of the state owned assets have been combined in the current private companies. The privatization and the poor financial situation of the Russian government at the time has led to a typical characteristic of the Russian mining industry: the importance of tycoons. Many private companies are owned and controlled by one or a few founders. These founders were at the right place at the right time and knew the right people at the time of privatization. Their position has further been strengthened by the government’s desperate need for funds, resulting in large amounts of debt being issued to the tycoons.

Figure 2 - Russian and global GDP growth

Whereas company owners in the rest of the world typically try to gain control over companies via the stock market, the large ownership stakes held by the tycoons in Russia lead to frequent power struggles among major shareholders. The struggle for control over Norilsk Nickel is the most recent example: Interros, controlled by Vladimir Potanin, and Rusal, controlled by Deripaska,both try to gain the majority in the board of Norilsk Nickel, one of the world’s largest suppliers of nickel and copper. In the last years the power struggles have led to the emergence of clear domestic champions for most of the key commodities: Rusal for aluminium; Norilsk Nickel for nickel and copper; Suek and Mechel for coal; Alrosa for diamonds; TVEL for uranium, etc. For steel and gold the landscape is (and probably will stay) more fragmented.

Attracting investment

Read more…

De Beers appoints new chief executive

May 17, 2011 Comments off

“De Beers has ended a prolonged leadership search by hiring a French engineering executive with no experience in diamonds, mining or South Africa. The South Africa-based diamond miner appointed Philippe Mellier as chief executive on Monday. Mr Mellier pursued a career at Ford Motor and Volvo before becoming president of Alstom Transport, the train-making division of the French engineering group.

Nicky Oppenheimer, De Beers’ chairman and guardian of his family’s 40 per cent stake in the company, told the Financial Times that experience in the diamond industry was not an important part of the selection process. ‘We have plenty of experts at running mines. We have plenty of experts in marketing diamonds,” he said. “The key thing is that Philippe has run world-class operations and substantial capital projects, and has experience dealing with joint venture partners.'”

Source: Financial Times, May 16 2011

Observations:

  • De Beers is the world’s second largest diamond miner, with operations mainly in Botswana and Canada. It mined 33mln carats last year. Anglo American holds 45% of De Beers shares.
  • In Mellier’s previous job he was president of Alstom’s transport division with €5.8bln annual sales. Joining Alstom in 2003 his key activities in the first years were to divest non-core businesses, while the company had to be bailed out by the French government. In later years he achieved success in winning government contracts for transport systems and buying into a Russian producer.

Implications:

  • The fact that an industry-outsider with experience in partnerships has been recruited indicates the board’s strategic priority for the next 5 years: strengthening ties with the Botswana government and probably setting up other partnerships to expand.
  • A key challenge for Mellier and Anglo’s Cynthia Carroll will be to decide on potential simplification of the ownership structure of De Beers. A potential buyout by Anglo American or flotation of the company to provide funds for expansion have been discussed for years. Whatever decision made, it will have to be aligned with Botswana’s government, which holds 15% of the company but receives a large part of the profits.

©2011 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Rio Tinto plans Russian diamond push

March 22, 2011 Comments off

“Rio Tinto is planning a push into Russian diamond mining, eyeing a tie-up with Alrosa, the state-owned miner, as the global industry looks ahead to rising demand from China amid tight supply constraints. Rio is understood to be a final contender to form a partnership with Alrosa to develop a large deposit near the northern port of Archangel, according to diamond market insiders.

The company declined to comment on its intentions or on wider reports that Tom Albanese, chief executive, had travelled repeatedly over the past year to Russia, a country where Rio has no operations. Rio makes the bulk of its profits from iron ore but it is also a significant diamond miner, producing 13.8m carats last year, compared with De Beers’ 33m and Alrosa’s 34.3m. Alrosa exceeded De Beers’ production for a second year.”

Source: Financial Times, March 20 2011

Observations:

  • Rio Tinto mined 13.8m carats last year in its Diavik and Argyle mines, the lowest volume in over 5 years. Relative importance of diamonds in Rio Tinto’s portfolio has decreased from over 20% of EBITDA 10 years ago to only some 2% now.
  • Argyle and Diavik have approximately similar proved reserves, but probable reserves for Argyle are much higher than for Diavik. Additionally the company has some low grade probable reserves in Murowa (Zimbabwe) and an ongoing feasibility study in India (Bunder). Total recoverable reserves at end of 2010 stands at 206mln carats. In the last annual report the company listed the search for opportunities for inorganic growth in Diamonds and Minerals as key priority.

Implications:

  • Alrosa is facing high levels of investment to increase production in challenging arctic underground mining conditions. Because of low cash flow from operations it has to look to financial markets (IPO) and partnerships to secure funds for capital expenditure.
  • Teaming up with Rio Tinto gives Alrosa not only access to development capital, but also to the extensive knowledge Rio Tinto has gained by operating Diavik’s mine in Northern Canada. However, Rio Tinto will not step into a partnership with a state-controlled Russian company without getting strong commitments to secure its returns.

©2011 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

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