Breakingviews

Coal rally may already be out of steam

September 22, 2016

The steel-making fuel is likely to give producers like BHP Billiton and Anglo American unexpected earnings boosts but there are few reasons to believe in a lasting rally. Weak Chinese metals demand and a potential revival in domestic supply could make gains fragile for investors.

BHP Billiton reaches earnings nadir

August 16, 2016

A ray of light is appearing for the mining giant. Weak global demand and a Brazilian dam disaster were partly to blame for a record $6.4 bln full-year net loss but the worst has passed. As long as prices stabilise, cost-cutting will allow BHP to return more cash to shareholders.

Crown Resorts can shine brighter without Macau

June 16, 2016

James Packer’s $6 bln casino business may split up. A big rally in its shares looks justified. Not only will the Australian group lift payouts and put hotels into a low-tax trust. The business will also get simpler and no longer be tied to China’s struggling gambling territory.

Oilmen fix smart $2.2 bln deal in Papua New Guinea

May 20, 2016

Oil Search’s offer to buy InterOil is canny and opportunistic. The buyer will only pay later for future gas discoveries. An agreement to sell a big chunk straight on to France’s Total also cuts the chance of a rival bid. It leaves InterOil investors with an unattractive choice.

BHP admits dividend pledges and mining don’t mix

February 23, 2016

The world’s largest miner slashed its interim dividend 74 pct and followed rival Rio in scrapping a “progressive” policy. About time. Promising payouts will only ever go up is daft in such a cyclical sector. Consistency matters less than safeguarding the balance sheet.

Aussie port and rail battle defies market gravity

January 28, 2016

Takeover interest has kept Asciano’s stock afloat in falling markets. Now that local rival Qube has formalised its $6.3 bln breakup bid, original suitor Brookfield is under pressure to respond or lose the backing of Asciano’s board. The recent selloff raises the stakes further.

BHP Billiton plays catch-up with $7 bln shale hit

January 15, 2016

Plunging energy prices forced the miner to write down its U.S. oil and gas assets again. The non-cash charge is large but just brings BHP’s balance sheet closer to the outside world’s estimation. A bigger step would be to follow the market’s lead once more and slash the dividend.

Ivan Glasenberg may be mining’s last man standing

December 31, 2015

The Glencore chief outlasted his peers when the commodity boom turned in 2013. The sector may be due another shakeout in 2016 if prices keep falling. But Glasenberg’s big stake in Glencore and his newfound dash of humility mean his copper plating should last another year.

Cheap batteries will give utilities electric shock

December 28, 2015

Local power suppliers have long enjoyed a natural monopoly. But the arrival of low-cost home energy storage from the likes of Tesla makes consumers less dependent on electricity networks. Batteries may even let some developing countries skip the grid altogether.

Rio Tinto capex cuts won’t stop race to the bottom

December 8, 2015

The Anglo-Australian miner is cutting spending by $1.5 billion to save cash amid the rout in commodities. But it’s not the same as slashing production – which is what’s needed to bring metals prices back up. The current strategy should make shareholders nervous.