If you're looking for a quiet, sedentary sector, you'll want to steer clear of the metals industry. A combination of renewed demand and concerns about locking in supply has commodity prices bouncing strongly off last year's lows, which may be why the world's biggest steelmaker and the world's largest miner may be negotiating toward a cooperative venture.
Let's make a deal
The talks are nothing new for BHP. The company is already involved in multiple joint ventures or potential joint ventures, and it's looking to ride a wave of higher iron ore prices this year to greater profits.
The company certainly hasn't been doing badly, posting record operating cash flow of $18.9 billion in the year ending June 30, 2009. It also had strong margins and return on capital, maintained a relatively clean balance sheet, and increased its dividend -- all in a year in which it faced collapsing demand owing partly to the recession. Yet as the company has observed, demand from China and India has come back faster than many expected.
At the same time, BHP continues to push forward toward an iron ore joint venture with Rio Tinto
Locking it in
Concurrently, Arcelor Mittal appears to be growing dismayed by the necessity of buying iron ore and other related products from the three. A deal with BHP could make it a lot simpler for Arcelor Mittal to get the raw materials it needs going forward.
The discussions would likely take months, and they could have an impact on world iron ore prices, including those paid by the likes of Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel