Rio Tinto Commits to London Head Office After Brexit Vote

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The offices of Rio Tinto Group in London.

Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg
  • New CEO sees ‘very small’ effect on Rio from U.K. leaving EU
  • Jacques took helm at mining company July 2, replacing Walsh

Rio Tinto Group’s new chief executive officer pledged to keep the head office of the world’s second-biggest miner in London after Britain’s vote to leave the European Union raised fears businesses will flee.

“No doubt whatsoever about it,” Jean-Sebastien Jacques, a 44-year-old Frenchman who’s also a British citizen, said in an interview at the offices in St. James’s Square, a short walk from Buckingham Palace. “Rio Tinto doesn’t do any politics.”

British voters backed a decision to leave the EU in a June 23 referendum, driving the pound to a more than 30-year low and sending shudders through equity and commodity markets around the world. Banks including JPMorgan Chase & Co. and HSBC Holdings Plc said the result may prompt them to move thousands of jobs from London.

“We recognize the decision of the British people,” said Jacques, who replaced Sam Walsh on July 2. “When we did look at the level of trade we do between the U.K. and the EU, or the EU and the U.K., it is very small.”

Jacques’ views echo those of former Rio CEO Tom Albanese, who said June 24 that the biggest miners will likely retain U.K. headquarters. Albanese, now head of Vedanta Resources Plc, said Britain offers benefits for resource companies.

“The direct impact on us is very small,” Jacques said. “However, we will continue to monitor the situation for obvious reasons in the coming weeks, months and years.”

Rio trades in London as well as Sydney, with registered shares split 80:20 between the two cities, respectively. The stock rose 1.3 percent to 2,376 pence by 9:20 a.m. in London on Monday, extending their advance this year to 20 percent.

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