Breakingviews

Review: Congo’s problems run deeper than oil

November 21, 2014

Virunga Park sits on top of reserves and between hostile states inhabited by warring militias. A new documentary casts UK oil firm Soco as the park’s top threat. Unethical exploiters are just one symptom of a nation whose institutions are too weak to assure economic stability.

Glencore Rio takeover would be harder than Xstrata

October 7, 2014

Ivan Glasenberg’s miner-trader is stalking $90 billion iron giant Rio Tinto. Though there’s some logic to a deal, Glencore will be loath to pay much of a premium, and the clash of cultures would be extreme. Rio is also in a better position to resist than rival Xstrata in 2012.

Rio Tinto can dig in against Glencore

October 7, 2014

The miner’s shares leapt after it admitted rebuffing the commodity trading giant. Yet the timing is opportunistic, as iron ore slumps, and a $160 bln merger looks suspiciously like a takeover on the cheap. So Rio’s board can justifiably demand a big premium, or no deal.

BHP spin-off won’t appeal to commodity players

August 19, 2014

The mining giant plans to hive off some assets into a new company. The prices of nickel and aluminium, two of its key products, are rising. Investors could use the new firm to follow the trends. But they probably won’t. There are purer plays and better-diversified producers.

Belarus-Russia spat clears way for potash plunge

August 30, 2013

A diplomatic row following Belarus’s arrest of a top Russian potash executive dashes chances that the former Soviet producers’ alliance can be revived. The rival North American cartel won’t survive much longer. Farmers and consumers should cheer at the prospect of lower prices.

Big miners adjust, slowly, to austere times

August 20, 2013

Glencore and BHP Billiton are on opposite sides of the mining spectrum. But both the trader and the low-cost producer are girding for a long, slow period with goodwill writedowns and leaner investments. The strategy is right, but shareholders will have to wait for rewards.

Angry aluminium users should sue the Fed as well

August 9, 2013

Lawsuits against JPMorgan, Glencore and Goldman allege they all artificially pumped up aluminium prices by keeping metal off the market. The ire is understandable, but some of it should be directed at central bankers. Their low rates make hoarding profitable. 

Gold warns markets of an anxious September

August 7, 2013

As in April, the yellow metal’s slide to a three-week low suggests broader troubles for markets. Better U.S. data means Fed asset purchases could be reduced in September. Less central bank cash is good for the dollar - and bad for most other global assets.

Glencore should just name Ivan Glasenberg chairman

May 16, 2013

The miner’s shareholders have handed Chairman John Bond his walking papers. Best practice dictates his permanent replacement be a strong outsider. This precludes tapping Glasenberg, the miner’s CEO and biggest shareholder. But a dual mandate would better reflect corporate reality.

ENRC board needs to summon its poker skills

May 9, 2013

The hapless miner’s independent directors hold a weak hand. But they shouldn’t just fold if ENRC’s dominant shareholders team up to make a low-ball bid for the company. There are risks to losing a deal. Still, there is a floor to a recommendable offer.