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.

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.