Glencore-Xstrata Combination May Seek to Build African Iron Ore Business

Glencore International Plc and Xstrata Plc (XTA), which have agreed to form the fourth-largest mining company, may seek West African iron-ore assets to bolster their holdings of the raw material, executives and analysts said.

“With this whole region, you are going to see further consolidation and a Glencore-Xstrata combined entity is going to be part of that, probably more so now that they’re not competitors,” Joe Ariti, a director of African Iron Ltd., said in an interview in Cape Town today. African Iron, which owns an iron ore project in Republic of Congo, agreed last month to a A$338 million ($365 million) takeover by Exxaro Resources Ltd.

Glencore today agreed to buy Xstrata for about 26 billion pounds ($41 billion) in shares in the world’s biggest mining takeover to create a business with $209 billion in sales. Glencore Chief Executive Officer Ivan Glasenberg said in August the company was looking for investments in iron ore.

Xstrata completed the purchase of Sphere Minerals Ltd. for $516 million last year to add deposits in Mauritania. Glencore has an iron ore sales accord with London Mining Plc, a producer in Sierra Leone, and a holding in Core Mining Ltd. which is developing an iron ore project in the republic of Congo.

“Glencore is a good customer of ours, we expect to build our relationship and business with them over time,” Graeme Hossie, London Mining’s CEO, said today in an interview in Cape Town. “They’ve had a different approach to mining than Xstrata has. I would expect that they would” look to grow their presence in iron ore in West Africa, Hossie said.

New Ore Region

West Africa is emerging as a new region of potential iron ore producers “as large-scale projects are pursued by the majors and junior projects come on stream,” Fairfax Plc analysts said in a Feb. 3 research report.

High margins based on lower operating costs offer attractive returns once capital is arranged, Fairfax said. The region is “likely to become a meaningful source of supply over the next 10 years, with Guinea potentially the third-biggest provider of seaborne iron ore by 2016, the analysts said.

For Glencore and Xstrata, ‘‘rather than cannibalizing that market, it’s probably going to make a lot more sense that they work together and take a lot more opportunities into the combined entity,’’ African Iron’s Ariti said.

Xstrata is co-owner of the $6 billion Zanaga iron-ore project in the Republic of Congo and plans to bring in a new investor because Zanaga Iron Ore Co. is considering reducing or selling its stake. Xstrata, with 50 percent plus one share in the project, has an option to buy Zanaga out after completing a feasibility study in early 2014.

‘‘Mick Davis at the helm of a joint Xstrata/Glencore business should be seen as a positive for Zanaga, given he has already made a major commitment to build an iron ore division with Xstrata,’’ Liberum Capital Ltd. analysts said in a Feb. 3 note.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jesse Riseborough in London at jriseborough@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Viljoen at jviljoen@bloomberg.net

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