Rio Tinto deal with BHP Billiton "all but dead"

City A.M. Reporter
Global miner Rio Tinto looked set to abandon its $116bn (£72bn) iron-ore joint venture with rival BHP Billiton a deal unpopular with customers, regulators and many of Rio Tinto's own investors.

Rio Tinto Chairman Jan du Plessis told a boarsd meeting addressing that the joint venture was all but dead and buried, acording to the Sysney Morning Herald.

"I think with regard to the (joint venture) and why it didn't succeed – we should simply work on the basis that both parties worked well and in good faith to make this thing work and both parties agreed, simultaneously, it wasn't possible," du Plessis was quoted as saying in the front-page report.

The venture was announced last year when Rio Tinto was heavily in debt and iron ore prices were less than half today's prices. Under the deal, Rio Tinto would hand over 5 percent of its Australian iron ore operations to BHP Billiton for $5.8bn, a price many Rio Tinto investors now view as too cheap.

Rio Tinto said in a statement after the newspaper report that it had yet to make a final decision on the venture, though it confirmed the issue had been discussed at Monday's board meeting.

"The board acknowledged recent communications from regulators that indicate potential obstacles to achieving clearance for the joint venture," it said.

BHP Billiton said it remained committed to the proposed venture's regulatory process but declined further comment.

The venture also angered international steel mills, which feared the two miners would gain more power over pricing of the steel-making raw material, and also worried competition regulators in Asia and Europe.

"I don't believe regulatory approval will be forthcoming," said UBS resources analyst Glyn Lawcock in Sydney.

"Steelmakers are up in arms," he added, noting that iron ore miners already made gross profit margins of around 80 per cent.