March 24, 2008
Don't pour in more cornstarch, Fools -- this plot is already getting a little too thick. Before long, it seems that Rio Tinto (NYSE: RTP ) and the Chinese will discover how well they get along together.
In the first act of what's becoming a metals melodrama, Melbourne's giant metals and mining company BHP Billiton (NYSE: BHP ) anted up a stock-swap offer for Rio Tinto. China, with its ever-growing appetite for iron ore, realized that these companies combined would control a significant fraction of the world's iron ore despoits.
In response, Aluminum Corporation of China (NYSE: ACH ) -- or Chinalco -- teamed up with Pittsburgh-based Alcoa (NYSE: AA ) to acquire a 12% stake in Rio Tinto. In the even busier and more confusing third act, Chinalco is reportedly considering adding to its stake in Rio Tinto, just as other factions within China are playing pricing hardball by rejecting all shipments of spot iron ore from either Rio or BHP.
While raising its percentage ownership in Rio would require Chinalco to clear some regulatory hurdles, this ever-thickening plot highlights the extreme frontiers of globalization, and the increasing importance of resource companies in the world markets.
What's the best course of action for Fools eager to invest in global metals and mining? First, get to know the group above, and perhaps include copper and molybdenum producer Freeport McMoRan (NYSE: FCX ) and Brazil's Vale (NYSE: RIO ) . Then, the next time a short-term price-induced pullback seems to have run its course, start nibbling at one or more of the sector's names.
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