Glencore: world of big mining agog at huge fall – by Nils Pratley (The Guardian – August 12, 2015)

Financial challenges ahead for Ivan Glasenberg as share price at mining and commodity-trading company falls by two-thirds since it came to market

How do you make a £2bn fortune from commodities? Answer: start with a £6bn fortune.

Ivan Glasenberg, chief executive of Glencore, won’t be laughing. Those numbers are the value of his shareholding in the mining and commodity-trading company at flotation in 2011 and now. Yes, Glencore’s share price really has fallen by two-thirds, from 530p to 180p, since it came to market with a fanfare. Among London’s big miners, only Anglo-American has done worse.

This week alone the fall has been 10% as the China-inspired rout has run through commodity markets and mining stocks. Glencore is being whacked harder than the likes of BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto for a simple reason – relative to earnings, it has a lot more debt.

Analysts predict borrowings will stand at about $48bn when the company reports half-year numbers next week, which is a hell of a sum even for a business making top-line (before interest and tax) earnings of $10bn-$12bn. Bold borrowings aren’t quite what they seem, it should be said, because Glencore’s marketing division holds a stockpile of commodities as inventories that can be turned into cash. Viewed that way, net debt might be nearer $30.5bn at year-end, estimates JP Morgan Cazenove.

But here’s the rub: Glencore might have to go ahead and turn some of that stock into cash if its wants to save its BBB credit rating. “At spot commodity prices, we calculate net debt needs to fall $16bn by year-end 2016 to safeguard Glencore’s BBB credit rating,” says JP Morgan. Preservation of BBB is a financial priority, Glencore said in March, for the sound reason that a healthy rating is vital to keep funding costs low in the trading-cum-marketing division.

It’s a financial challenge caused by the plunge in prices that is undermining profits on the other side of Glencore – the mining operation concentrated on the old Xstrata assets, which are skewed towards copper and coal.

If you’re an optimist on Glencore, the company has enormous financial flexibility. The marketing division, famed for being able to make profits in all weathers, can be reined in to reduce debt, albeit at the cost of lower earnings the following year.

For the rest of this article, click here: