Iron ore glut seen easing path to China nod for Vale-Fortescue tie-up – by Sonali Paul and Michael Martina (Reuters U.S. – March 10, 2016)

MELBOURNE/BEIJING – How times have changed. In 2008, when top global miner BHP Billiton tried to take over iron ore rival Rio Tinto, China raced to snap up a $14 billion stake in Rio, to block the deal and thwart any tightening of iron ore supplies.

Two years later, Chinese regulators helped nix a $116 billion iron ore joint venture between the two giants. Now, faced with an iron ore glut and a struggling steel industry, Beijing is expected to take a kinder view of a proposed tie-up involving the world’s largest iron ore miner, sources say.

Brazil’s Vale and Australia’s Fortescue Metals Group this week announced they are in talks over a joint venture to blend up to 100 million tonnes of their iron ore – about 10 percent of China’s imports of the steel-making ingredient.

“It is quite likely that this will go through without conditions. The industry is much less sensitive right now,” an antitrust expert with knowledge of the Ministry of Commerce’s (MOFCOM) merger review process said.

The person, who declined to be named while speaking on a government matter, said the slump in iron ore prices had made it less controversial for China, which consumes about half the world’s seaborne iron ore. Iron ore prices, while off their lows, are still down some 70 percent from highs touched in 2011.

MOFCOM, contacted by Reuters, said it had not received any application from Vale or Fortescue. It did not comment further.

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