China gets steelier about debt restructuring

September 22, 2016

Metals trader Sinosteel has agreed a $4 bln workout. The deal is a fudge, but spreads the pain more widely than expected. Meanwhile, a smaller miner has been allowed to fail. Both episodes suggest China is getting a bit tougher about debt problems in moribund sectors.

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.

Rio Tinto’s best is not yet good enough

August 3, 2016

The Anglo-Australian miner has slashed debt but can't take its eye off the ball after posting its worst earnings in 12 years. No wonder Rio is trading at a discount to peers. New boss Jean-Sebastien Jacques is paying out dividends, but has his work cut out to win over investors.

Bankers can learn from miners about culture change

June 15, 2016

Rio Tinto, BHP and their peers have spent years improving their safety records. The finance industry can learn a thing or two from the way that miners have tried to clean up their act. Not least is the ambition to attain higher standards than absolutely required by the law.

Noble CEO exit signals reduced ambitions

May 30, 2016

Yusuf Alireza is leaving the embattled commodity trader after four years in charge. Though Noble has avoided an immediate liquidity crisis, investors still question its long-term viability. Flogging its U.S. energy arm will raise cash at the expense of further shrinkage.

OPEC freeze failure could hasten oil’s recovery

April 18, 2016

Producers failed to agree a deal to freeze supply at a meeting in Doha. The failure was largely due to Saudi Arabia’s refusal to allow Iran to be exempted from an agreement. Prices will drop initially, but if OPEC disintegrates the stalemate could hasten crude’s recovery.

BP’s $20 mln Dudley payout looks crass but isn’t

April 14, 2016

The oil major faces an uproar over Chief Executive Bob Dudley’s bumper remuneration package despite the company slashing jobs and recording losses last year. But the criticism may be unfair. Dudley has hit key targets and drawn a line under the Gulf of Mexico disaster.

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.

Gold’s prospects are dull

January 25, 2016

The precious metal isn’t behaving like a safe haven should. The dollar’s rise is weighing on its price, Asian demand is dented, investors don’t need inflation hedges, and past price gyrations have tarnished its defensive allure. Grimmer news is needed to restore gold’s lustre.

Sweeter Cairn bid is Vedanta’s least bad option

January 25, 2016

Anil Agarwal’s Vedanta Resources is edging towards loan covenant limits. Bondholders are losing faith in the mining tycoon’s ability to tap buried cash and repay $8 bln of debt. The stress may force Agarwal to sweeten a deal to merge subsidiaries and simplify the group structure.