Thursday, May 28, 2015

China's Revenge Serves Body Blows to BHP and Rio

China's revenge serves body blows to BHP and Rio

It's taken six years, but China is slowly turning the tables on the heavyweight iron ore miners.

In 2009, iron ore giants BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto decided they wanted to take advantage of China's soaring demand for iron ore, which was pushing prices ever higher. So they ditched the 40-year old system of setting annual contract prices in favour of using spot pricing for the majority of their iron ore shipped to China from 2010.

Needless to say, China's steel mills weren't very happy about that. BHP's previous CEO Marius Kloppers is widely acknowledged as the man most responsible for bringing about the change. With BHP and Rio filling a huge amount of China's demand, the steelmakers had little choice but to acquiesce. 

The changes, and China's thirst for iron ore, saw the iron ore price soar as high as US$191 per tonne in February 2011, from around US$60 per tonne in 2008. Rio Tinto produced record underlying earnings of US$15.5 billion in the 2011 financial year, with iron ore contributing US$12.9 billion. BHP, for its part, saw net profit rise 74 per cent to US$21.7 billion as revenues rose 36 per cent.

China may also still be sore over aluminium giant Chinalco's aborted US$19.5 billion investment in Rio Tinto back in 2010, which was aimed at gaining resource security. At the time, reports suggest Chinese officials feared that China was too vulnerable to both Rio and BHP, even separately. Rio's board canned the deal, and announced that it was instead forming an iron ore joint venture with BHP. That deal never went ahead – much to the relief of China.




The giant (re)awakens

But China has never forgotten, and appears unlikely to forgive. Now the sleeping giant has awakened, and looks set to turn the tables on Rio and BHP.

Firstly, China needed to loosen its dependence on the two Australian iron ore miners, so it has turned to Brazil's Vale. For many years Vale was snubbed by the Chinese. The iron ore giant had built a number of very large ore carriers to ship ore to China, but they have been banned from docking at Chinese ports since 2012.

Now, China hasn't just removed the restrictions but Vale has also sold 4 of the ore carriers to two of China's biggest shipping companies. Each carrier can transport up to 400,000 tonnes of iron ore, and could reduce Vale's production costs by as much as 25 per cent, according to some estimates. That would bring Vale's landed costs around the same as BHP and Rio's.

Vale also has a 25-year shipping agreement with China Cosco to transport iron ore from Brazil to China. China has gone another step further too, loaning Vale US$4 billion to help fund a US$16.5 billion project, known as S11D.

S11D is expected to produce 90 million tonnes of very high quality iron ore each year, taking Vale's production to 450 million tonnes of iron ore within the next few years.

In two moves, China has decreased its dependence on BHP and Rio, loosening their control over the iron ore market, and thanks to the increase supply of iron ore, achieved lower prices.




One last dance? 

Fairfax Media reports today that Chinese-linked companies have applied to the Foreign Investment Review Board seeking permission for an investment with Australia's self-styled 'new force in iron ore' Fortescue Metals Group.

Fortescue, with its US$7.7 billion in net debt, could strengthen its balance sheet with a capital injection, either to pay down debt in return for an equity stake, or refinance existing debt at lower rates. The miner recently issued US$2.3 billion in senior secured notes, but is paying a whopping 9.75 pe cent interest rate, at a time when interest rates around the world are at record low levels.

Fortescue could struggle to repay its debt load if iron ore prices continue to trade at or under US$60 per tonne, with some estimates putting the miner's breakeven price around US$70 per tonne. The company may well be amenable to a deal with the Chinese, particularly after the recent kerfuffle over the iron ore inquiry that was going ahead, but was cancelled.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Andrew Forrest Makes Surprise Investment in Atlas Iron (AGO)

Andrew Forrest Makes Surprise Investment in Atlas Iron (AGO)

Mining billionaire Andrew Forrest has emerged as a new investor in rival Atlas Iron, despite continuing to serve as the chairman and major shareholder in Fortescue Metals Group.

Speaking after Atlas announced a strategy to restart mining through lower contracting fees and an equity raising of up to $180 million, the miner's chairman David Flanagan revealed that Mr Forrest had promised to participate in the raising.

"I am just so pleased to be able to announce that Andrew Forrest was the first person to put his hand up and say he was going to invest personally in that raising," he said.

"It is through one of his holding companies, whichever it will be ... we are not going to be sort of a subsidiary of Andrew Forrest Holdings, but it is meaningful in the extent of what we are doing going forward and that is all I can say.

"Thanks again to Andrew for backing Atlas."

Mr Forrest does not currently own shares in Atlas according to Bloomberg records, and the move continues a recent string of investments made by Mr Forrest in small miners.

Mr Forrest last week invested in small Victorian gold producer A1 Consolidated via his private company Minderoo Resources, and also has exposure to uranium play Vimy Resources and nickel junior Poseidon.

Mr Forrest declared earlier this year that he was setting up a new company designed to buy assets during the commodity price downturn, and some believe that company is Minderoo Resources.

Upon launching that new company in March, Mr Forrest vowed it would not compete with Fortescue's current or future strategies.

"A process has been put in place to ensure that if any possibility of doubt regarding conflicting interest arises, the matter will be resolved independently and quickly. I have written to the FMG board asking them to approve this process, and they have returned with their full support for our venture and its governance procedures," said Mr Forrest in March. 

When asked about Mr Forrest's investment in Atlas on Sunday, Fortescue chief financial officer Steve Pearce said he had "nothing to add".

"It is not a Fortescue investment," he said.

Mr Flanagan has announced his support for a federal government inquiry into iron ore, which Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced on Friday after listening to the thoughts of Mr Forrest.

BC Iron chairman Tony Kiernan and Cliffs Natural Resources chief executive Lourenco Goncalves also threw their support behind the inquiry on Sunday, along with Queensland University associate professor of regulator economics, Flavio Menezes. 




See more at: http://commoditiesaustralia.blogspot.com.au/2015/05/andrew-forrest-makes-surprise.html#sthash.gGGW2FcY.dpuf

Friday, May 8, 2015

Anzac Circulating Commemorative 50c Coin New Zealand

The Anzac commemorative coin is New Zealand’s first circulating coloured coin, and was minted by the Royal Canadian Mint


Anzac Circulating Commemorative 50c Coin New Zealand

One million Anzac coins have been minted and will be released to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the landing of Anzac troops at Gallipoli. This number represents the size of the New Zealand population in 1914, of which 10 percent served in the First World War. The coin was coloured using a revolutionary high-speed pad printing solution, developed by the Royal Canadian Mint and technology partner TECA.

Capable of producing circulation coins with vibrant, photo-quality images, in multiple varieties and blends of colour, and with superior wear resistance, this unique technology is exclusive to the Royal Canadian Mint. 

The high-resolution design of the coin was made possible by an integrated system incorporating specially developed inks, robotics for speed and precision control, as well as advanced vision inspection for quality assurance. 


The significance of the Anzac coin

The Anzac coin honours the spirit of Anzac that was formed 100 years ago, and continues to live on today.

The Anzac coin was launched in February 2015, by His Excellency Lieutenant General The Right Honourable Sir Jerry Mateparae, GNZM, QSO, Governor-General of New Zealand.

It is the first time in New Zealand's history that a coloured circulating coin has been produced. The coin will be in circulation as legal tender and available for collectors.

The Anzac coin design features a New Zealand and Australian soldier standing back to back with their heads bowed in remembrance. The mangopare (hammerhead shark) pattern symbolises strength and determination, and the silver fern reflects New Zealand’s national identity.

Availability and Distribution

One million Anzac coins have been minted to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Gallipoli. This number represents the size of the New Zealand population in 1914, of which 10 percent served in the First World War.

The Anzac coin was released into circulation as legal tender on 23 March 2015. It is being sold at its 50 cent face value.

New Zealand Post Group is coordinating the release and distribution of Anzac coins. Coins can be purchased at PostShop or Kiwibank branches, or via NZ Post’s website.

Groups representing former and current armed forces, including Returned Services Association members and Defence Force personnel, were given the opportunity to pre-order limited numbers of coins before they were released publicly.

For more information about the Anzac coin and other comemmorative coins available as part of New Zealand Post’s five-year Anzac commemorative stamp and coin programme, see www.nzpost.co.nz.

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand does not have Anzac coins available for distribution.
How the Coin is Made

The Anzac commemorative coin is New Zealand’s first circulating coloured coin, and it was minted by the Royal Canadian Mint.

The Anzac circulating coin has the same specifications as the existing 50 cent coin and testing has shown it will be accepted in coin and vending machines.

The coin was coloured using a revolutionary high-speed pad printing solution, developed by the Royal Canadian Mint and technology partner TECA. Capable of producing circulation coins with vibrant, photo-quality images, in multiple varieties and blends of colour, and with superior wear resistance, this unique technology is exclusive to the Royal Canadian Mint.

The high-resolution design of the coin was made possible by an integrated system incorporating specially developed inks, robotics for speed and precision control, as well as advanced vision inspection for quality assurance.


Coin Specifications:

Alloy: Plated steel 
Diameter: 24.75mm 
Weight: 5.00g 
Design: The Anzac coin design features a New Zealand and Australian soldier standing back to back with their heads bowed in remembrance. The mangopare (hammerhead shark) pattern symbolises strength and determination, and the silver fern reflects New Zealand’s national identity. 
Edge thickness: 1.70mm Edge treatment: Unmilled

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand has prepared an Anzac Coin Fact Sheet explaining how the coin is made and detailing its specifications.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Atlas Iron Maintains Production at Two Out of Three Mines

Atlas Iron Maintains Production at Two Out of Three Mines

Iron ore miner Atlas has reversed its decision to mothball all of its operations, temporarily at least.

Three weeks ago the miner announced production would cease by the end of April at all three of its sites in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

At the time Atlas said the decision had been forced by falling iron ore prices, despite considerable cost cutting.

But today Atlas advised the ASX mining will continue throughout May at two of the three sites.

Production will continue at the Abydos site and be resumed shortly at Wodgina, though mining and processing will remain suspended at Mt Webber.

The announcement is expected to give a reprieve to around 400 of the 600 workers affected by the original decision.

"The decision to continue operating at these projects ... is the result of a substantial reduction in forecast cash costs for May," Atlas said in its statement to the ASX on the decision.

"The cost reductions were achieved with the support of Atlas' key service providers."

Iron ore prices have recovered from under $US50 a tonne when the suspension was announced to as high as $US59.20 a tonne earlier this week.

The price has since backtracked a little to $US56.20 a tonne.

"Atlas expects to be cash flow-positive in May," today's ASX statement said.

"This is based on target all-in cash costs plus interest and sustaining capital expense."

But Atlas shares remain suspended and the company has given no indication of its intentions beyond this month.
Hopefully they continue, workers get a reprieve: CFMEU

CFMEU mining and resources division secretary Gary Wood said any reprieve for the workers was helpful in an industry where jobs were becoming rare.

"Obviously it's a positive in the shorter term and one can only hope there's an increase in [the iron ore] price to make it a sustainable operation," he said.

"It is a positive and hopefully they can continue and the workers do get that reprieve because there's no opportunities out there in the field at this time.

"I think they would have been running as efficiently as they can so it all comes back down to the price of ore."

Regional Development Australia (RDA) Pilbara chief Diane Pentz said she remained concerned about the number of people who had been retrenched.

She said the mining company's announcement was a "bright light" that was welcomed by the RDA Pilbara and by people in the community.

"I'm sure that it's a relief to a lot of people who are employed within this resource industry and I think it also starts to signal that there is some confidence around the recovery of the iron ore price," Ms Pentz said.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Iron Ore Revival Puts Local Miners Back in the Black

Iron Ore Revival Puts Local Miners Back in the Black

At least least four Australian miners are cash-generative at current iron ore prices, thanks to a 23 per cent rise in the bulk commodity price over the past three weeks.

Another 5 per cent rally in the iron ore price late on Friday night capped a rare good week for the local industry, and pushed the benchmark price to $US57.81.

While BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto have easily remained profitable during the recent slump in iron ore prices, it is likely that few other local iron ore exporters were generating cash when the price hit $US47.08 on April 2.

But a weekly gain of 13 per cent means the iron ore price is now at six-week highs, and is believed to be above the "break-even" price for the world's fourth biggest producer, Fortescue Metals Group.

The estimation of break-even prices is fraught given the constantly changing factors involved, but Fortescue is believed to need iron ore prices to be about $US50 per tonne to cover its cost of production, royalties, maintenance spending and its debt obligations.

Fortescue mines at two locations in the Pilbara, with its newer Solomon hub the cheaper operation, while the company's original Chichester precinct is estimated by Deutsche to lose money at benchmark iron ore prices below $US50 per tonne.

The miner has already outlined plans to reduce its costs even further in the 2016 financial year, with a dramatic reduction in the amount of waste ore moved at the Chichester precinct set to drag break-even costs below $US45 per tonne.

The plan, in concert with last week's debt refinancing which pushed the company's next debt repayment back to 2019, should help Fortescue survive the lowest point for iron ore prices, which analysts at Deutsche and Credit Suisse expect to come in between the 2015 and 2017 calendar years.

But Deutsche analyst Paul Young recently opined that Fortescue's revised working plan in the Chichesters is not sustainable longer term, and is likely to be a viable approach for less than two years.

"The change in mine plan at the Chichesters is likely net present value destructive as it will likely shorten mine life and impact product quality," he said in a recent note.

The junior miner that relies on Fortescue to rail, ship and market its product to customers, BC Iron, is also likely to be profitable at the recently improved iron ore price.

According to BC's improved performance during the month of March, UBS believes the miner can be generating cash so long as the benchmark iron ore price is $US55 per tonne or higher.

Those close to break-even around these prices are believed to include Mt Gibson Iron, whose cost position has ironically improved since a wall failure at its Koolan Island mine, and US miner Cliffs Natural Resources, whose Koolyanobbing operation exports through the South Coast of WA.

US miner Cliffs Natural Resources will update investors on Wednesday morning Australian time when it publishes its March quarter results.

Gina Rinehart's Roy Hill project is not expected to start exporting until August or September, and is believed to have a break-even price between $US41 and $US51 per tonne.

Those needing a further improvement in prices include Arrium Limited and Atlas Iron, which ceased operating its mines just over two weeks ago.

While last week's improvement in iron ore prices has injected some hope into the local sector, the rising commodity price has come with some trade-offs.

The Australian dollar, which hurts local miners when it is high, has risen 3 per cent to US78.15¢ over the past two weeks.

Oil prices also appear to have found their bottom, prompting a slight rise in prices for some "bunker fuels", which are consumed by ships that carry commodities like iron ore.

Local miners will be hoping those factors don't continue rising and blunt the impact of improved iron ore prices.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Rio Tinto Goes Full Ore Ahead

Rio Tinto has revealed it shipped 72.5 million tonnes of iron ore from its Pilbara mines during the three months to March



CYCLONE season and a train derailment have slowed Rio Tinto’s iron ore business but the mining titan’s expansion plans remain firmly in place.

The Anglo-Australian miner has revealed it shipped 72.5 million tonnes of iron ore from its Pilbara mines during the three months to March.

The result, revealed in a production update on Tuesday, was 12 per cent lower than the previous quarter but 9 per cent higher than the same period a year earlier.

Rio produced 74.7 million tonnes of iron ore for the March quarter with the difference going into stockpiles.

Production was down 6 per cent on the previous quarter but up 12 per cent year-on-year.

The result missed market expectations but analysts were unfazed as Rio maintained its full-year production forecast at a record 350 million tonnes and said it would draw down on inventories to maximise cash flow throughout the year.

Rio said its operations had been impacted by tropical ­cyclone Olwyn, which battered the West Australian coast last month, and a train derailment that temporarily blocked ­access to Dampier port.

Smaller competitors such as Fortescue have been deeply critical of Rio and rival BHP Billiton for continuing to bring on new supply as the price of the key steelmaking ingredient tumbles.

Chief executive Sam Walsh said Rio’s push to milk as many low-cost tonnes from its iron ore business as possible was in the best interests of shareholders over the long term.

“By making best use of our high-quality assets, low cost base, and operating and commercial capability our aim is to protect our margins in the face of declining prices and maximise returns for shareholders throughout the cycle,” he said.

The price of iron ore rose 1.3 per cent to $US51.57 a tonne early on Tuesday after hitting a decade low of $US47.08 a tonne in early April.

Rio produced 144,000 tonnes of copper during the March quarter — a 9 per cent drop on the same time a year earlier due to mining lower grades.

Rio shares closed up 1.5 per cent on Tuesday at $55.50



Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Atlas Iron Suspends Itself From Share Trade Amid Plunging Prices


Atlas Iron is stumbling in the face of the slumping ore price, suspending itself from the local share market as it tries to map out a future.

Iron ore slumped over the weekend to a fresh low of $US46.70 a tonne on a key Chinese spot market.
Atlas said it has been surprised by the "extent and the pace of the decline in the iron ore price" which it says has fallen 24 per cent since it released its half-year accounts in February.

"The voluntary suspension is requested pending the outcome of an extensive review of the company's operations, financial outlook, asset sale opportunities and capital structure," the company said in a statement to shareholders.

The company said it has already commenced discussions with a number of its stakeholders in relation to various initiatives it is undertaking to reduce costs and preserve value.

Bulk transporter McAleese Group is one of those stakeholders, it has a major iron ore haulage contract with Atlas worth around $250 million and not due to expire until 2017.

McAleese has issued a statement to shareholders saying it will continue to work with Atlas as a priority to "achieve sustainable solutions for both parties."

Atlas shares, which last traded at 12 cents, will remain suspended until the company makes an announcement at the end of the review, which should be in the next fortnight.

The share price has lost 88 per cent in the last 12 months.

Financial advisory and asset management firm Lazard is assisting Atlas with the review.

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