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Glencore to Study BHP Australian Nickel Assets, CEO Says

March 4 (Bloomberg) -- Glencore Xstrata Plc, the global commodity trader and metals producer run by billionaire Ivan Glasenberg, said it will study the sale by BHP Billiton Ltd. of Australian nickel assets.

“It’s on the market, it’s clear it’s on the market,” Glasenberg said today in a phone interview from London. “We will kick the tires. It’s something that would make sense, but it is an asset that’s had its problems.”

BHP has booked impairment charges on the Nickel West assets of almost $1.6 billion over the past two fiscal years, after prices for the metal declined. Glencore’s Minara unit controls the Murrin Murrin nickel mining and refining project.

“It’s something that would make sense with Minara being close by,” said Glasenberg, who is chief executive officer of Baar, Switzerland-based Glencore. “We do buy certain products from them.”

Australian nickel producer Western Areas Ltd. has studied the assets, according to two people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified as the information isn’t public. The sale has also attracted Mick Davis, former CEO of Xstrata Plc, whose X2 Resources has considered bidding, according to a third person, who also asked not to be named. X2 studied an offer of less than $1 billion for the assets, said the person.

A spokeswoman for BHP in London declined to comment. A spokesman for Western Areas declined to comment.

BHP Assets

Glencore today announced a $454 million impairment charge on the Murrin Murrin assets in the northeastern Goldfields of Western Australia.

BHP’s Nickel West operations in Western Australia produced 103,300 metric tons of the metal in fiscal 2013. The assets include the Mount Keith open-cut nickel mine and concentrator, two underground mines and a concentrator at Leinster, nickel concentrate and smelting plants at Kalgoorlie and the Kwinana site, which produces nickel briquettes and powder.

Peter Grauer, the chairman of Bloomberg LP, parent of Bloomberg News, is a non-executive director of Glencore Xstrata.

To contact the reporters on this story: Jesse Riseborough in London at jriseborough@bloomberg.net; Firat Kayakiran in London at fkayakiran@bloomberg.net

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

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