Treasurer’s tough comments on Glencore-Rio Tinto merger could be read as a stern warning by Australia’s government.
Taken at face value Australia’s treasurer Joe Hockey has declared Rio Tinto untouchable. As widely reported now by media, Hockey is quoted as saying by numerous sources at a recent meeting including mining executives that there was “no way” he’d let Glencore merge with Rio Tinto “on his watch”. Assuming the reports are accurate, the question becomes, is Hockey serious?
If he is, then Australia truly has a curious way of dealing with possible foreign takeovers. Yes, it’s ultimately up to the treasurer (a political position equivalent to finance minister in other parliaments) to decide on big deals like this where the “national interest”, e.g. major tax revenue, is at stake.
But then the decision is usually taken as part of, or at least after, some due diligence. Australia’s Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) usually makes unbinding recommendations on such deals to the treasurer. Then the treasurer decides, however he/she and his/her government want.
Now, if Hockey truly means “no way” on another (hypothetical) attempt by Glencore to merge with Rio Tinto, he would effectively be turning the whole process on its head.
Indeed, he would be, and possibly is, dispensing with the foreign merger and takeover process by pre-judging an outcome without looking at a possible proposal from Glencore that would presumably argue, among other things, how it would be an upstanding taxpayer, not make drastic job cuts and not get unfair market control over a particular commodity.
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