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Posts Tagged ‘Vale’

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 46/’12: Lonmin vs. Xstrata & the CEO-carousel

November 10, 2012 Comments off

Top Stories of the Week:

  • Lonmin raises equity to stay independent
    • Lonmin announced a $800m rights offering, in that way fending of the proposal by Xstrata to increase its stake in the troubled platinum miner to a majority share.
    • The strikes in South Africa, which escalated at Lonmin’s operations, have caused significant lost production and urgent financial issues for Lonmin.
    • Sources: Lonmin press release; Financial Times; Wall Street Journal
  • BHP starts search for new CEO
    • BHP Billiton has started the search for the successor of CEO Marius Kloppers. Apparently the company will not necessarily promote an insider to the top position.
    • With Mick Davis leaving Xstrata if/when the merger with Glencore is approved and Cynthia Carroll leaving AngloAmerican next year, 3 of the top CEOs in the mining industry will change.
    • Sources: Financial Times 1; The Economist; Financial Times 2
  • India limits export of iron ore
    • Iron ore exports from the Indian state of Orissa will be limited strongly by new production quota for mines without processing facilities.
    • The government is trying to attract processing investment to prevent iron ore is only exported without significant benefit for the country. High export duties (raised to 30% early this year) and production quota are used to discourage exports from the world’s 3rd largest iron ore exporter.
    • Sources: Wall Street Journal; Commodity Online; Steel Orbis

Trends & Implications:

  • Orissa’s attempts to curb exports don’t do much to stimulate local investment in processing capacity. India’s government announced a year ago that it would make it more attractive for companies to invest by setting up mining right and process plant permitting packages. With the current uncertainty about both global demand and India’s local demand outlook it is unlikely that large investments in additional processing capacity will be made in Orissa in the near future. As a result the will mainly slow down the local economy.
  • Almost a year ago, after the announcement of Ferreira as new CEO of Vale, this blog conducted a poll among its readers to find out which top company CEO was mostly to be replaced first. The results showed most trust in the future of Kloppers at BHP. A year later 3 out of 4 are on their way out, while most CFOs have been replaced over the past 2 years too. The high level of activity in replacing top executives indicates a change of mindset in the boards of these companies: shifting from a focus on growth and investment to a focus on operational excellence and payout. The new group of top executives will mainly need to show a track record of cost-control and willingness to make tough decisions on closure of mines.

Results of Dec-2011 Poll on thebusinessofmining.com

2012 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Mining Week 38/’12: Fortescue in debt trouble; South African shutdowns

September 16, 2012 Comments off

Top Stories of the Week:

  • Fortescue trading halted in prep for announcement
    • Trading in Fortescue’s shares has been halted in preparation of an announcement to be made by Tuesday Sep-18. The company earlier in the week stressed it is in compliance with all its debt covenants, but it is looking to restructure debt as low prices and aggressive expansion investment could result in short-term liquidity problems for the company.
    • Fortescue is a rapidly growing iron ore producer active in Western Australia’s Pilbara region. The company is ramping up to produce 155mn tonnes per year (from a current 60Mtpa), but it has lost 50% of its market value over the past 6 months as investors doubt it will manage to finance the investment plans without sustained high iron ore prices.
    • Sources: Fortescue announcements; Financial Times; The Australian
  • South African trouble spreads beyond Lonmin
    • Anglo Platinum shut down its Rustenburg operations this week as employees showing up for work were intimidated by striking colleagues. In the meantime Lonmin’s Marikana operations are still shut down and Xstrata and GoldFields reduced production in precautionary measures.
    • Despite talks between Lonmin and unions a deal between the striking miners and the company appears to be a long way off. The gap between Lonmin’s wage increase offer and the demands by the unions is over 100%, and the social unrest and promises made by many leaders make it hard for the unions to accept a deal that is much lower than the initial demands.
    • Sources: Financial Times 1; Wall Street Journal; Financial Times 2
  • Glencore’s new offer received positively
    • Glencore released the details of its new offer for takeover of Xstrata. The increased share ration and deal terms appear to win over a sufficient part of Xstrata’s shareholders to make the deal happen. Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund, Xstrata’s 2nd largest shareholders behind Glencore, did not yet respond to the offer.
    • According to the new terms Xstrata’s CEO Mick Davis would have to step down and leave the reign to Glencore’s Ivan Glasenberg within 6 months and the retention package for senior Xstrata managers would stay intact unless Xstrata’s board of directors wants to change it.
    • Sources: Glencore documentation; text; Financial Times

Trends & Implications:

  • Fortescue might suddenly become the focal point of the next big takeover attempt in the mining industry. Share price has decreased dramatically compared to iron ore majors, and both BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto could realize significant synergies with Fortescue’s operations and projects in Western Australia’s Pilbara region.
  • The current low iron ore price has created a situation in which Fortescue’s share price is depressed because operating cash flow does not support the planned combination of investment and debt repayment. Fortescue’s expansion is for a large part finance by debt, loading a company which is worth just over $9bn with over $8bn of debt. BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, and Vale should all be interested in an acquisition and would be able to get a better deal at debt restructuring because they would pose a lower risk of default to lenders.
  • Caused in part by less potential for economies of scale in transportation than the key competitors, Fortescue operates at clearly higher costs (i.e. lower margins) than Rio and BHP. Quickly realizing cost synergies and aligning the project portfolio with the larger portfolio for the acquiring company would/will be the focus of successful integration.

2012 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Mining Week 31/’12: Falling prices, falling profits

July 29, 2012 Comments off

Top Stories of the Week:

  • Vale’s profits down on lower prices
    • Vale reported profits below analyst estimates and 60% down versus the same quarter last year. The benchmark price of iron ore has dropped to $120/wmt, at part with the price floor identified by the company last quarter.
    • After the first quarter Vale reported a 45% drop in year on year profits, driven by both volumes and prices
    • Sources: Vale press release; Financial Times
  • Anglo, Teck, Gold miners down on lower prices
    • Lower commodity prices and rising costs resulted in earnings drops of 55%, 65%, and 35% for Anglo, Teck, and Barrick.
    • Anglo announced delay of its flagship development iron ore project in Brazil, Barrick announced large cost overruns for its Pascua Lama project in Argentina, and Teck recently tuned back on a large copper expansion project in Chile. They are all reviewing the balance between project investments and shareholder returns.
    • Sources: FT on Anglo; FT on Teck; WSJ on Barrick
  • Anglo pays $0.6bn for controlling stake in Mozambique coking coal project
    • In a rare move amidst cancellation of development projects across the industry Anglo made the move to buy 59% of the 1.4Bt Revuboe coal project in Mozambique. The project is a JV with Nippon and Posco and is planning to start production of 6-9Mtpa by September 2013.
    • Sources: Financial Times; Anglo press release

Trends & Implications:

  • Dropping prices + increasing costs = review of development. Most non-agricultural commodity price indices have dropped 20-40% over the past year. Where a year ago the focus of most miners was to bring new projects online as fast as possible, attention has shifted to cost containment and ‘disciplined capital investment’. The focus on building projects is stretching capacity of contractors, making capital and operating costs increase rapidly. As a result the projected returns of projects deteriorate, forcing companies to reconsider their portfolio of development plans.

©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 18/’12: Vale’s profits down; Asteroid mining up

April 28, 2012 Comments off

Top Stories of the Week:

  • Vale profits down on
    • Vale presented quarterly net earnings of $3.8bln, a 45% drop to last years 1st quarter. Revenues were down by approx. $2bln driven by both price and volume decreases. Slightly increased overall costs combined with lower volumes show an significant increase of unit costs.
    • An iron ore price of around $120/t is the current market floor, according to Vale. Many low grade mining operations in China operate at costs around this price, making them go out of business and supply to drop significantly if prices would go below this point.
    • Sources: Vale press release; Financial Times 1; Financial Times 2
  • Gemcom acquired by Dassault
    • Gemcom, one of the premier makers of mine planning software, is bought by Dassault Systems from a group of private equity parties. Dassault pays $360mln, while the private equity parties paid $180mln 4 years ago.
    • Dassault has recently set up GEOVIA; a brand ‘to model and simulate our planet’. It is considering adding more packages to the brand.
    • Sources: Dassault press release; Gemcom 2008 press release; Financial Times
  • Planetary Resources unveils plans to mine asteroids
    • Planetary resources, a startup company backed by an impressive list of investors including Larry Page, unveiled its plans to start exploration of asteroids with the objective of mining platinum, iron, nickel, water, and rare platinum group metals.
    • An exploration station should be active by 2020. Timeline to bring metals back to earth was not given. Estimates of total investment to start producing start at $2.6bln, similar to the development cost of a large mining project.
    • Sources: Wikipedia company info; Planetary Resources company website; Financial Times; Wall Street Journal

Trends & Implications:

  • The innovative plans by Planetary Resources underline a growing drive to find alternative methods to obtain raw materials or to find substitutes for the raw materials we often take for granted. If bringing resources from space to the earth would succeed, this could fundamentally change the supply/demand dynamics of our conservative industry. And why would this not succeed? Especially for those materials where global demand is relatively small (e.g. platinum), this initiative should not be deemed impossible. However, futuristic it certainly is.
  • Dassault’s move to set up a software branch specialized in the natural resources area is riding the trend of increasing importance of standardization and implementation of software tools to manage the portfolio of remote and often interlinked operations of mining companies. Software can help to produce production per employee, an important driver with the current shortage of qualified miners. At the same time the proper integration of operations and managing large parts of the design and operational work for operations from remote locations drives a need for software innovation.

©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

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