James Moore: Despite what we’re told, the Rio Tinto-Glencore mega-merger isn’t over yet


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The Independent Online

Outlook Calm down, calm down. At least that’s the message Rio Tinto was trying to put out with its announcement that an informal chat about what could have been the world’s biggest merger had been held with Glencore before the latter’s founder, Ivan Glasenberg, was sent away with a flea in his ear.

Glencore then followed up with a statement of its own, informing us that it is no longer considering any transactions involving Rio. Kindly move along now. Nothing to see here. And all you bankers, lawyers, accountants and PR people: please stop calling us! We’re not doing at deal. At least not for the next six months.

Here’s the thing. A brief look at  Mr Glasenberg’s track record with Glencore suggests that this one is by no means over, whatever he and Rio might like us to believe. You don’t pull off mega-deals like the £39.1bn takeover of Xstrata, ousting its chief executive in the process, without a keen strategic mind and a willingness to play the long game.

July’s chinwag between Mr Glasenberg and Rio’s chairman, Jan du Plessis, was just an opening sally. Rio is now firmly in the crosshairs of Glencore, and of the market. It will only take one false step. It mightn’t even take that if iron-ore prices remain soft.

The flurry of excitement surrounding these two companies will calm down soon enough. Neither has much name recognition anyway.

But pay close attention. Neither company has much more than an office in this country. Glencore is, in fact, headquartered in the hedge-fund manager’s favourite tax bolt-hole of Zug, Switzerland.

Combined, though, they would account for nearly 10 per cent of the FTSE 100. If you’ve a pension, or any savings invested in tracker funds, this is one to watch. Be assured we’ll be back here again before too long.