Allianz coal ban will change investment climate

November 24, 2015

The German insurer is to pull $4.3 bln out of investment in coal companies, ditching its scepticism against blanket anti-carbon policies. This rethink suggests big asset managers are taking climate change seriously. Other carbon-heavy industries like oil and cement may be next.

Lonmin buys time but platinum is bigger problem

November 9, 2015

A $407 mln rights issue at an eye-popping 94 pct discount will allow the South African miner to postpone a day of reckoning with its creditors. Lonmin has bought itself a reprieve, but this won’t fix the platinum price, or help it avoid another strike at its Marikana mines.

Brazil dam disaster tests BHP’s mega-mining model

November 6, 2015

Investors ditched BHP Billiton shares after a jointly owned dam failed in Brazil. While mining is much safer than it used to be, such catastrophes are an inherent risk. A big balance sheet and diverse income streams mean it can absorb the financial consequences better than most.

New ANZ boss stuck in strategic mid-ocean

October 1, 2015

Mike Smith is leaving as CEO of the $55 bln Australian lender after eight years. Beefing up in Asia has proved less lucrative than he hoped. Yet a slowing home economy and tightening regulation mean successor Shayne Elliott may have to stay centered somewhere in between.

Aussie leader gets a bust, a boom, and a problem

September 15, 2015

Mining has slumped while housing has surged. The biggest challenge for new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is a slowdown in GDP that is depressing everything from taxes to profits. He needs to embrace higher public deficits – even if that’s tough for a conservative.

Glencore model is battered but not broken

September 14, 2015

Ivan Glasenberg’s mining creation has been wrong-footed by commodity prices, China, and shareholder worries about debt. The pressures may undermine Glencore’s premium valuation and its penchant for doing big deals. Its mix of trading and mining, however, is logical and robust.

Glencore’s giant cash call puts squeeze on rivals

September 7, 2015

The Swiss trader’s $10 bln debt reduction plan eases balance sheet jitters by cutting net borrowings by a third. Investors get stability at the expense of their dividend. But the move offers a grim view of commodity prices that undercuts the investment case for the whole sector.

Freeport-McMoRan leaves Carl Icahn lots of targets

August 28, 2015

Big cuts in spending and staff sent the struggling miner’s stock soaring – just before the activist revealed an 8.5 pct stake. The pre-emptive strike won’t be enough to satisfy the feisty billionaire. High debt and low commodity prices suggest he has asset sales in his crosshairs.

Miners’ dividends are a fragile commodity

August 25, 2015

BHP Billiton has raised its payout even as prices fall. That helps win investor support for its aggressive iron ore production strategy. Yet across the sector, funding generous payouts will become tough unless supply and demand rebalance. There is little to suggest they will.

Glencore tripped up by faith in rational markets

August 19, 2015

The commodity trader’s earnings have disappointed as copper and coal have tumbled. Anticipating the market is getting harder because both rivals’ behaviour and Chinese demand for raw materials are even more unpredictable. Glencore is thus focusing on what it can control: cash.