At the end of last week, a major mining company Rio Tinto – the world’s second-largest supplier of iron ore – announced its plans to establish a joint venture (JV) with rival BHP Billiton. If the transaction receives the approval of regulatory authorities, the joint venture will control some 60% of the world market of iron ore – the main ingredient for steel production, transfers Reuters.
At the same time, experts point out that this union of Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton will be good for their Brazilian rival Vale, as it will strengthen the position of suppliers of iron ore in negotiations with Chinese customers.
In addition, the number of companies participating in the annual price negotiations with steel workers will decline, and it will just happen at the same time when China will be fighting for a greater price declines than the one agreed to by the steel companies of Japan and South Korea.
Upon deciding to merge its iron ore business with BHP Billition, Rio Tinto has already abandoned the sale of the shares to Chinese metallurgical company Chinalco. The cost of the transaction was to amount to 19.5 billion U.S. Experts note that if the transaction took place, China could gain access to the Australian iron ore and even would be able to influence the pricing in this market.
“The establishment of a joint venture of BHP Billition and Rio Tinto is profitable for Brazilian Vale, because it will increase the price discipline. Furthermore, as a result of this transaction the total investment of the two companies in the mining of iron ore will decrease. Thus Vale will be able to boost its presence in the market “- believes the independent analyst Michelle Epplbaum.
It is also worth noting that every year, Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton and Vale negotiate the prices of iron ore with customers, and the total price becomes indicative for the entire industry. Such a system, existsting for 40 years, guarantees the stability in the market, but it becomes less effective with increasing volatility in commodity markets. This year, Japanese and South Korean steel companies agreed on 33% drop in prices, but Chinese demand not less than 40% reduction from last year’s prices. China explains these requirements of high volatility in world commodity markets.
Some analysts say, and that the transaction between the two companies will strengthen the position of Australian suppliers in the Chinese market, because they have an advantage over Vale thanks to geographical proximity and, consequently, lower transportation costs. However, the expert brokerage company Agora Christian Viana believes that the best quality of ore can help the Brazilian company to maintain its position in the Chinese market – the only one in the world where growth in consumption is expected. Anyway, one thing is clear: the fact that what is profitable for iron ore industry will eventually benefit all producers of iron ore, including Vale, conclude market participants.