Anglo steps up its defences

MINING titan Anglo American is gearing up to defend itself against rival Xstrata&rsquo;s merger approach, by stepping up efforts to appoint a new chairman, and hatching plans for talks with China.<br /><br />The company has drawn up a short list of preferred candidates for the job, understood to include industrial heavyweight Sir John Parker and former Pilkington boss Paulo Scaroni.<br /><br />Industry sources said reports that Jim Leng, who quit as chairman-designate for Rio Tinto earlier this year, could take over at Anglo were unfounded.<br />&ldquo;He&rsquo;s a heavyweight and he&rsquo;s available, so he&rsquo;s being linked to everything,&rdquo; one source said. &ldquo;He&rsquo;s just keeping his head down at the moment,&rdquo; he added.<br /><br />The company is also in open talks with an unnamed Chinese company, and an unidentified Middle Eastern investor, as it seeks out a partner for its Brazilian iron ore business, MMX.<br /><br />&ldquo;China has an insatiable appetite for iron ore,&rdquo; a source familiar with the talks said, &ldquo;making talks with those companies very appealing.&rdquo;<br /><br />Xstrata made an unsolicited, all-share merger proposal earlier this month.<br /><br />Anglo&rsquo;s board and chairman Cynthia Carroll slammed the approach, condemning its &ldquo;lack of strategic merit,&rdquo; and saying the terms were &ldquo;totally unacceptable&rdquo;. <br /><br />But industry experts have backed the merger, welcoming the synergies, and saying it &ldquo;makes sense.&rdquo;<br /><br />Combined, the companies would create a global mining group worth more than $40bn (&pound;24bn), which would rival industry giants Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton.<br /><br />Rio and BHP are planning a joint iron-ore venture.