It appears to be more of a speed bump than a barrier. The European Union has set forth its objections to what's now become a long-playing saga: the attempted takeover of London-based mining giant Rio Tinto
According to those on the continent, whose objections follow earlier approvals of the combination by authorities in both the U.S. and Australia, combining the two companies would create a massive entity that would wield excessive pricing leverage over the global market for iron ore -- the primary ingredient in the manufacture of steel -- along with other commodities. It's likely, however, that, rather than constituting an outright blockage of the deal, the latest objections represent a starting point for the extraction of concessions from BHP.
The proposed combination of the two mining giants has now been traipsing along for well more than a year. BHP's second -- and latest -- offer would involve exchanging 3.4 of its shares for each share of Rio Tinto. That ratio has recently become more attractive as Rio Tinto's share price has slid to the point where BHP's offer now represents about a 27% premium to Rio's trading value.
However, in addition to concerns in Europe about the combined company's projected role in the world's iron ore market, there has been similar nervousness about the proposed transaction on the other side of the globe. Earlier this year, in an obvious effort to create a barrier of its own, Aluminum Corp. of China
Chinalco obviously was in cahoots with Chinese steel manufacturers (and, of course, the Chinese government), since BHP and Rio Tinto together would represent about a third of the world's iron ore supply. That would about equal the share controlled by the industry leader, Brazil's Vale
I began this article by referring to EU fussing in Brussels about BHP's effort to buy Rio Tinto as just a speed bump. That was not meant to minimize the seriousness of the European authority. Rather, it represents my ongoing belief that ultimately -- perhaps even in the lifetimes of most Fools -- the deal will get done, albeit following some concessions. For that reason, and given the premium now represented by the offer, I'd urge my Foolish friends to keep close tabs on the proposed acquisition and the companies involved.
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