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Posts Tagged ‘Rio Tinto’

Mining week 26/’12: Resource nationalism & slowdown worries

June 24, 2012 Comments off

Top Stories of the Week:

  • Glencore mine in Bolivia nationalized
    • Bolivia nationalizes the Colquiri zinc and tin mine, one of 5 of Glencore’s assets in the country. The government promises to give a ‘fair compensation for equipment.
    • The nationalization comes after several weeks of labor conflicts between Colquiri’s workers and Glencore’s local subsidiary
    • Sources: Wall Street Journal; Glencore press release; La Prensa Bolivia
  • Rio Tinto invests $4bln more in Pilbara region
    • Rio Tinto has decided to spend an additional $3.7bln in the Pilbara region as part of its long-term investment plan.
    • $2.0bln of the funds will be used for infrastructure enhancements to allow the company to meet its output targets. The other $1.7bln will be used to extend the life of one of the largest mines in the area.
    • Sources: Rio Tinto press release; Financial Times; Fox Business
  • Media stress commodity price uncertainty

    • The disparity between performance of global mining stocks and metal prices is triggering debate in banking world and media about the potential impact of a further slowdown of the global economy.
    • Sources: Mining Weekly; Financial Times

    Trends & Implications:

    • The uncertainty about short-term economic developments in both OECD countries and developing economies, most notably China, is causing share prices across the mining industry to lag the current performance of both metal prices. The uncertainty for short-term prospects apparently also affects the long-term outlook for the industry, making investors believe price and profit levels can’t be sustained. As a result, Price/Earnings (PE) ratios are dropping, causing market capitalization to go down despite good company performance.

    ©2012 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Mining Week 23/’12: Investment dilemmas for BHP and Fortescue

June 3, 2012 Comments off

Top Stories of the Week:

  • Rumour around retention plan for Xstrata executives
    • Several major shareholders have voiced discontent with the approx. $370mln retention bonuses for the top 72 executives of Xstrata that has been made part of the vote on the Glencore-Xstrata merger.
    • Sources: Financial Times 1; Financial Times 2; Wall Street Journal
  • Australian state governments fight for BHP investment
    • BHP Billiton received environmental clearance for the expansion of Port Hedland’s iron ore harbour. The project could cost around $20bln up to 2022 to increase export capacity to 350Mtpa.
    • The government of Southern Australia is pressuring BHP to start the expansion of its Olympic Dam copper/uranium project before the end of the year, threatening not to extend the permits. The Olympic Dam expansion is one of the key projects that might be cancelled or delayed as BHP tries to limit investment and return money to shareholders.
    • Sources: Bloomberg; Business Spectator; Financial Times
  • Fortesque worries about debt servicing
    • Fortescue, Australia’s third largest iron ore miner, is close to completion of an expansion that will enable it to export 155Mtpa iron ore.
    • The CEO of the company has indicated that it will focus on repayment of debt before undertaking further expansion. The company has received negative feedback from investors because of its high gearing. Its Debt/Equity ratio stands at approx. 45%, versus 26% for Vale and Rio Tinto and 15% for BHP Billiton.
    • Sources: Fortescue media release on expansion progress; Wall Street Journal; 9News

Trends & Implications:

  • If BHP decided to press on with the Port Hedland expansion at the expense of large development projects in other business units that would be a next sign that the supermajors are preferring the relatively predictable iron ore market over further diversification. Both Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton are considering sale of their iron ore business, BHP is in the process of reviewing the options for its Australian manganese operations, and Vale reached a deal last week to dispose its coal operations.
  • The proposed retention bonuses for the top 72 managers of Xstrata add up to around $370mln, an average of some $5mln per person, 4% of last year’s profit, roughly 1-2 annual executive salaries per person, about $0.8 per share, or some 0.1% of share price. The bonuses are set up to keep the managers with the company for at least another 3 years. Even though we are talking about a lot of money that could trigger ethical debate about the executive pay in the industry, the shareholders hardly have any ground to protest the plan from a business perspective. Retention of the top managers after the merger should certainly enable the company to get a quick payback on the $370mln.

©2012 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Mining Week 20/’12: Commodity outlook and potential US coal takeover

May 13, 2012 Comments off

Top Stories of the Week:

  • Glencore and Rio Tinto fuel commodities outlook discussion
    • Glencore’s Ivan Glasenberg joined his collegue at Noble group and Rio Tinto’s CEO Tom Albanese in stressing that there are no clear signs of a slowdown of Chinese commodities demand.
    • Glasenberg stressed that inventory levels for many commodities are relatively low at the moment, contrary to the belief that increasing inventories should cause a drop of commodity prices somewhere in the next year.
    • Sources: Financial Times; FT Video on Noble outlook; The Australian

  • BHP Billiton rumoured to prepare bid for coal miner
  • ArcelorMittal – Macarthur

Trends & Implications:

  • A potential new takeover by BHP Billiton might be a good moment for BHP to announce writedowns on its acquisitions in the natural gas space. The acquisition of Petrohawk from Chesapeake last year is said to require a significant writedow as gas prices don’t seem to recover. Timing the market and combining the ‘exciting’ news of a takeover in the coal industry might partly overshadow the news of the writedown on the gas assets.
  • The decrease of annual growth of the Chinese economy to single digit numbers is expected to impact construction and manufacturing activity in the short term, but the underlying outlook for the longer term continues to be a shortage of supply. Experts struggle to relate the overall economic growth numbers to short-term growth of construction sector, which drives most of the commodities demand.

©2012 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Mining Week 19/’12: Week of the Investors

May 6, 2012 Comments off

Top Stories of the Week:

  • Xstrata’s investors voice GlenStrata concern
    • In the re-election of Xstrata’s directors the vote against re-election of Ivan Glasenberg, the head of Glencore, increased from 3.6% last year to 13.6% this week.
    • When voting on Glencore’s takeover offer for Xstrata a group of approx. 17% of shareholders could block the deal as 75% of shareholders excluding Glencore’s 33% needs to support the deal.
    • Mr. Glasenberg indicated most of the debate on the merger currently is about the share ratio, which Glencore currently offering 2.8 shares per share of Xstrata.
    • Sources: Financial Times 1; Financial Times 2; Xstrata shareholder meeting results; Xstrata notice on Quatar shareholding
  • BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto return cash rather than invest more
    • Both BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto stressed their commitment to dividend and buyback policies this week.
    • Though reiterating the sustained belief in the long-term growth fundamentals of the commodities markets, the focus of the messages in investor presentations is shifting towards limiting and phasing investment, rather than growing as fast as possible.
    • Sources: Financial Times; BHP Billiton Macquarie presentation; Rio Tinto Asian investors presentation

Trends & Implications:

  • Miners currently focus on returning cash to shareholders because of the combination of short-term cost pressures that make margins shrink and longer term uncertainty about the pace of growth of global demand and the direction of metal prices. Citigroup’s forecast of a falling overall capex (see below in FT’s picture) shows uncertainty about how many of the projects in the current pipeline are really going to make it. Investments in star projects are still done, but the projects that could turn out to be marginal or lossgiving are on hold.

  • Mr. Glasenberg’s comments about the share ratio discussion appear to indicate that Glencore’s bid for Xstrata might be sweetened if the deal runs the risk of not being accepted in Xstrata’s shareholder meeting early July.

©2012 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Mining Week 17/’12: The sense and nonsense of stock prices

April 22, 2012 Comments off

April is traditionally the month in which the major diversified miners present their annual results. BHP Billiton closes its fiscal year in the mid of the calender year, but joins its main competitors in giving an update of its performance in an investor meeting in this month. One of the key objectives of the executives presenting their numbers to an audience that will listen to each of the presentations in the course of a couple of weeks is to make the company look good, or at least better than competitors.

Managing the expectations of investors serves a twofold purpose: in the first place the goal is to make sure the investors know what they are investing in and what the perspectives for the company are – as a result the stock price should reflect the true performance and potential of the company; in the second place the goal is to keep the shareprice high or make it go higher – often referred to ironically as ‘reflecting the true value of the company’.

Why care about stock prices?

  • Market value matters in the first place from a financial point of view. The higher the market price, the easier and cheaper it is to raise debt, giving flexibility to invest.
  • The second important reason to care about the share price is the mergers and acquisitions arena. An undervalued company is an acquisition target, and having a strong share price makes doing paper acquisitions (pay with shares instead of cash) attractive.

Why not care about stock prices?

  • Market value does not matter because an executive should not be driven by short term stock price fluctuations, which are typically mainly the result of market conditions and events the executives do not have a hand or a say in. In the long term good management will lead to a distinct outperformance of competitors, but short term movements are too erratic to say much about management performance.
  • An executive should not be driven by the market price (i.e. the shareholders interest) alone, but should take the interests of other stakeholders (employees, society), which are often not directly or fully included in the share price, in account too.

©2012 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Mining Week 15/’12: Coal in Mongolia, no coal in Australia.

April 9, 2012 Comments off

Top Stories of the Week:

  • Chalco bids for Mongolian coal miner
    • Chalco (holding company = Chinalco) made a tentative $930mln offer for 57.4% ownership of SouthGobi Resources, a Canadian listed company, currently owned by Ivanhoe resources.
    • Sources: Financial Times; Wall Street Journal
  • Coal production issues in Australia
    • BMA, the coal JV between Mitsubishi and BHP Billiton in Queensland, declared force majeure after a week long strike in some of its mines. The labor conflict has been going on for almost a year, with workers campaigning for better contract rights for contracted workers and to retain the union’s power in recruiting decisions.
    • Sources: Financial Times
  • Alcoa again cuts production
    • Alcoa, the largest aluminium producer in North America, announced it would cut alumina production by 2% to support prices.
    • At the start of the year Alcoa cut aluminum production, at that time by 12% and mainly in the USA. The 2% alumina cut is said to be aligned with this 12% ‘final product’ cut.
    • Sources: Wall Street Journal; Financial Times; Alcoa press release

Trends & Implications:

  • The potential Chalco – SouthGobi deal appears to be engineered by or via Rio Tinto. Chinalco owns a significant stake of Rio Tinto, which became the majority shareholder of Ivanhoe recently with the key objective of quickly developing the Oyu Tolgoi gold-copper mine (also in Mongolia).
  • Despite a general demand boom which has not passed aluminum many major aluminum producers are posting losses. Profit margins over the past 10 years average below 10%. The key reason for this situation is an overcapacity resulting in oversupply and high inventory levels. Aluminium is currently one of the very few mined natural resources that could be seen as a ‘demand-driven’ market rather than a ‘supply-driven’ market for price setting. However, as more and more producers cut investment, the demand growth fundamentals should invert this situation in the next couple of years.

Alcoa's long term demand outlook as presented end of 2011

©2012 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Mining Week 13/’12: Diamonds are not forever, neither are iron ore chiefs

March 31, 2012 Comments off

Top Stories of the Week:

  • Rio Tinto puts its diamond division up for sale
    • Rio Tinto started a ‘strategic review’ of its diamond business to explore divestment options for the 4 assets. The move comes only months after BHP Billiton announced it intends to sell its only diamond project.
    • Rio Tinto was seen as the most likely buyer of BHP’s Ekati project because of the close proximity to it’s Diavik operation.
    • Sources: Rio Tinto press release; Financial Times; Wall Street Journal
  • BHP Billiton iron ore president quits; replaced by insider
    • Ian Ashby, president of BHP Billiton’s iron ore division, announced he will step down in July. BHP will replace him with the head of the energy coal business: Jimmy Wilson.
    • The leadership change comes during an aggressive investment program to expand capacity of the Pilbara operations.
    • Sources: BHP Billiton press released; Wall Street Journal
  • Indian privatization of coal mines backfires
    • A leaked government report states that the Indian government missed out on $210bln by selling state owned coal assets to cheaply without having a proper auctioning mechanism in place.
    • The hedge fund TCI, which owns close to 2% of Coal India, has started a process to sue the management of Coal India for allowing too much government interference related to the sale of assets.
    • Sources: Financial Times; Times of India; Financial Times II

Trends & Implications:

  • In March of last year Rio Tinto was said to explore a partnership with Alrosa, the world’s second largest diamond miner. This cooperation never materialized, and it appears Rio Tinto’s management has decided the iron ore business does not fit in its strategy of running large scale operations of traded minerals. With the presence of DeBeers and Alrosa it is unlikely that a third player will be able to invest to buy both Rio Tinto’s and BHP Billiton’s operations.
  • India is one of the few mineral rich countries in the world that had to go through a large scale privatization program in the last years. Typically domestic investors who know the businesses and have access to influential officials manage to get good deals in buying assets (Russia is another good example). Often the real value of the formerly government owned assets only becomes apparent after a couple of years of operation in private hands.

©2012 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

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