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.

Bayer’s Monsanto bid flags conglomerate curse

May 23, 2016

The German group can only muster a $62 bln swoop on the U.S. seed maker because of its big healthcare arm. Without that, Bayer’s crop science unit would be prey not predator. The bidder’s management may see this as a perk of being diversified. For shareholders it’s the opposite.

Islands sale emblematic of California water woes

November 11, 2015

Zurich Insurance is set to sell land in the state’s northern water hub to a utility in the dry south. It may form part of a broader $15 bln plan and raises concerns about water rights, the environment, big projects and how to finance them and how best to use a scarce resource.

Coke’s sparkling H2O talk is a bit too fizzy

August 27, 2015

The soft-drinks giant has done more than many corporations to nurture water resources. Now CEO Muhtar Kent reckons he can hit Coke’s goal of replenishing every liter it uses five years early. But the company’s claim that it will be water neutral doesn’t yet pass the taste test.

Brazil’s epic water crisis a global wake-up call

November 24, 2014

Sao Paulo, a city of 20 mln, is running out of H2O thanks to creaky infrastructure, political battles, a record drought and Amazon deforestation. The humanitarian and economic cost would be immense if supplies dried up. The fiasco should drive other metropolises to action.

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.

Mongolia’s task: avoid Nigerian resource curse

July 5, 2012

The country, which held elections last week, is growing at a blistering rate on the back of its Oyu Tolgoi mine. Nigeria shows what can go wrong when government and private fingers get sticky - the bonanza is wasted and non-resource activity is burdened and disincentivized.

‘Peak’ resource nationalism could get messy

August 6, 2012

Miners see a silver lining in the fading super-cycle: it lets them be pickier about working with grabby governments. But existing projects will always be vulnerable to expropriation. And populist pandering doesn’t necessarily wax and wane in lock-step with commodity prices.