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Glencore Xstrata $8.47 Billion Write-Down Is No Big Surprise

Paul Ausick

Not even the size of London-listed Glencore Xstrata’s $8.47 billion asset impairment came as much of a surprise to observers of the mining industry. The amount, which includes a $7.7 billion goodwill impairment charge related to the acquisition of Xstrata, was at the high end of what analysts were expecting, but apparently Glencore wanted to get the bad news out and behind it.

Big mining firms wrote down more than $50 billion in assets in 2012, led by Rio Tinto PLC (RIO), which wrote down $14 billion and fired its CEO. Mergers and acquisitions in the mining business totaled more than $1 trillion in the past decade, and the 5% write-down is really not so bad, all things considered.

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Glencore paid $44.6 billion for Xstrata in a deal that closed in May of this year, and based on the impairment charge, the company overpaid by $7.7 billion. Glencore also took a $452 million charge on an Australian nickel mine, and a $324 million charge against its stake in Russian aluminum mining giant Rusal.

The culprit, as with all the other write-downs, is primarily low commodity prices. In addition to write-downs, the miners are combating the lower prices by reducing production and killing off or delaying new projects.

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Glencore did not suspend its $0.054 quarterly dividend and the company’s CEO said that the company would provide a full update of its plans at its September 10 investor day presentation.

Overpaying for an asset by nearly $8 billion might put some CEOs in the unemployment line. But Glencore’s chief, Ivan Glasenberg, owns a big chunk of the company’s shares and he is unlikely be looking for a new job any time soon. But if the bleeding from the Xstrata acquisition cannot be stopped, even Glasenberg may be in trouble.

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