Thursday, 15 November 2007

Merger would not affect ArcelorMittal

The world’s largest steelmaker’s major shareholder & chief executive officer, Lakshmi Mittal, said yesterday that the prospect of a £166 billion merger between Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton would not affect his company. Mr Mittal said that “any merger was an endorsement for ArcelorMittal’s strategy of vertical integration. About 45% of our iron ore supplies comes from our own mines; by 2012 we want that figure to be about 75%. If it happens, this merger just reinforces that that strategy is the correct one. We haven’t seen a formal offer yet and we are keeping an eye on this, but so far no one from BHP Billiton has had any communication with us.”

A merger between the rival mining groups would give the new company about 27% of the world market for iron ore and has excited concern in the steel industry, particularly in China, a leading consumer of steel and other natural resources. The world’s largest steelmaker was formed through a mega-merger of the world’s largest and second-largest steel companies last year, although the legal merger of the two entities was completed only yesterday. It is worth £50.5 billion and is three times bigger than Nippon Steel, its nearest rival.

Earnings for the nine months to September 30 were 30% higher than they were in 2006, at $14.6 billion (£29.7 billion). The increase to earnings has enabled the company to raise its dividend by 20 cents increasing quarterly payments to 37.5 cents a share. ArcelorMittal pledged at the time of the merger to return 30 per cent of net income to shareholders every year, through an annual dividend and share buybacks. (source: The Times)

Official figures yesterday showed that UK retail sales fell during October for the first time in nine months, according to The Office for National Statistics (ONS). Sales slid 0.1% in October, compared with a 0.3% rise in September.

Weaker demand for clothing and footwear as a result of the wet summer kept shoppers at home, while higher interest rates also dented sales. The numbers are likely to reinforce the calls for the Bank of England to cut interest rates and help stoke demand.

Alson Clarke at BNP Paribas said "Retail sales have been surprisingly elevated for some time now and today's data shows that this is starting to unwind," Sales over the three months to October were up 5.1% from the same period a year ago. An increase of 1.4% from the previous three month period from May to July was also observed. (source: BBC News)

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