I shouldn't view this as the end of my literary career. But it seems that I've written volumes for my Foolish friends about the proposed takeover of London-based mining and metals giant Rio Tinto (NYSE:RTP) by its even larger Australian rival, BHP Billiton (NYSE:BHP). So when the plug gets pulled on the deal, it's almost disorienting.

The nearly 18-month saga, in which BHP originally offered three of its shares for each one of Rio Tinto's "ordinaries," only to raise the ratio to 3.4-to-1, has come to an end, at least for now. On Tuesday, with commodities and general economic conditions flagging globally, BHP put an end to its offer.

BHP's primary fear was that the European Union, in exchange for approval of the takeover, would force the company to divest assets at a time when properties generally are going for thrift-store rates. Indeed, with the market sliding, BHP's original offer, which was worth about $147 billion, had descended to a value near $68 million.

And then there was also the differential in debt between the two companies. While BHP has a little more than $9 billion on the right side of its balance sheet, Rio Tinto is carrying about $37 billion, following its acquisition last year of Canadian aluminum producer Alcan. At the time of that deal, Alcan also was also being pursued by Pittsburgh-based Alcoa (NYSE:AA).

The BHP-Rio Tinto chase became the major focus of the world of mining and metals for a while. Because Rio Tinto and BHP are the world's second- and third-largest producers of iron ore -- behind only Brazil's Companhia Vale do Rio Doce (NYSE:RIO) -- Chinese steelmakers took a dim view of the possible combination when iron ore prices were running.

As a result, Aluminum Corp. of China (NYSE:ACH) -- or Chinalco -- and Alcoa teamed up earlier this year for a stake in Rio Tinto. Their obvious intent was to become a factor in the proposed acquisition of the London-based company.

So for now, it appears that a saga has ended -- at least temporarily. Blame it on a plummeting global economy if you wish. But for my money, this is something like watching 24: It may take a while, but the action is likely to begin again. Fools would be well advised to stay tuned.

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