China Names Ex-Chalco Chairman to Lead State Assets Regulator

  • Xiao Yaqing becomes SASAC chairman amid industry overhaul
  • Oversaw record $14 billion Rio Tinto investment in 2009

A former aluminum executive who oversaw China’s biggest mining acquisition was named head of the country’s state-owned assets regulator as Beijing overhauls its bloated industrial sector.

Former Aluminum Corp. of China President Xiao Yaqing was appointed chairman and Communist Party deputy secretary of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, according to the agency’s website Wednesday. Xiao replaced Zhang Yi, who remains the party chief of SASAC, which manages non-banking state-owned assets and reports to the State Council, China’s cabinet.

Xiao led Aluminum Corp. of China, also known as Chalco, and was chairman of its listed unit until 2009, when he was appointed vice secretary general of the State Council. He managed the aluminum producer’s 2008 joint purchase with Alcoa Inc. of a $14 billion stake in Rio Tinto Group, which remains the country’s largest overseas mining acquisition. 

Hong Kong-listed shares of Aluminum Corp. of China Ltd. surged as much as 17 percent before paring gains to 2.9 percent and closing at HK$2.49. The company’s Shanghai shares rose 0.7 percent.

Xiao takes over SASAC as Chinese President Xi Jinping tries to overhaul the country’s debt-ridden state companies, which act as a brake on growth in the world’s second-largest economy. Under plans announced in September, the government aims to sell shares of some state-owned enterprises and consolidate others. Authorities want to reform unproductive “zombie enterprises” while encouraging a “blending” between state-owned capital and private investments.

Chalco took part in the Rio Tinto deal while the London-based company was fighting off an unsolicited bid from BHP Billiton Ltd. that would have created the world’s biggest mining firm. Under Xiao, Chalco also purchased Peru Copper Inc. for $860 million and 49 percent of Yunnan Copper Group Co.

— With assistance by Martin Ritchie, and Alfred Cang

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