Monsters of Rock: I go to Rio, Moscow cannot
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Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO) executive Bold Baatar maybe failed to read the room at a conference in the US, when he said the company’s Oyu Tolgoi mine in Mongolia — hemmed in on either side by belligerent powers in Russia and China — would find it tough to stop buying supplies from Russia even after the invasion of Ukraine.
“The reality is, Mongolia has two very big powerful neighbours, so it’s quite important for us to maintain healthy, peaceful, balanced relationships,” Baatar said at the large CERAweek conference in Houston, reported by Reuters.
Baatar suggested it was hard to stop Russian supplies coming in through Kazakhstan, which sounds a little like plausible deniability.
To say that raised a few eyebrows is an understatement. Right on time, Rio released comment to various news outlets today:
“Rio Tinto is in the process of terminating all commercial relationships it has with any Russian business.”
Definitive, it seems.
The biggest question for Rio is what it does with its QAL business. Rio owns 80% of the alumina refining business in Gladstone alongside Rusal, in which Putin linked oligarchs Oleg Deripaska and Viktor Vekselberg have large ownership stakes.
It came the same day engineering firm Worley (ASX:WOR) announced its exit from Russia.
“We are deeply saddened by the events in Ukraine and support the strong response of the international business community withdrawing from Russia,” the firm said in a statement.
“Worley has begun the safe withdrawal of its services provided in and into Russia and will not enter into new contracts.”
Rio, which saw its shares sink today as it went ex-div, has faced pressure to address its links to Russian aluminium producer Rusal from the Australian Centre for Corporate Responsibility in recent weeks.
“We look forward to seeing more detail about the implications for Rio Tinto’s Queensland Alumina joint venture,” the ACCR’s Dan Gocher said.
“Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, all Australian companies should sever relationships with companies owned or part owned by oligarchs aligned with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“In the last fortnight, the global push to isolate Putin has escalated at enormous speed.
“Rio Tinto and Worley should be commended for taking appropriate action.”
The ACCR has also called on Origin to review its gas exploration JV in the Beetaloo Basin with Moscow-linked Falcon Oil and Gas, which counts Vekselberg’s Lamesa Holding as a 16% shareholder.
Origin is spending 100% of the exploration funding there and says Falcon is not currently contributing, but did say last week it had expressed its concerns to Falcon’s board.
Iron ore minnow Fenix Resources (ASX:FEX) saw its shares rise more than 6% after reporting a $14 million net profit after tax in the first half of the financial year.
Despite a weaker December quarter, Fenix said it had been able to manage costs with lower freight rates and high iron ore prices painting a positive picture so far for the second half of 2022.
“Fenix’s high grade iron ore shipments realised an average CFR price of US$126/dmt during the six month period. The recent recovery in the benchmark price resulted in the Company realising an average CFR price of US$139/dmt during the first two months of this calendar year and this is only improving with the current strength in the spot iron ore price which is now above US$158/t,” Fenix MD Rob Brierley said.
“Additionally, shipping costs averaged US$34/dmt in the period under review but have averaged less than US$26/dmt so far this period, effectively delivering an extra margin of US$8/dmt for Fenix.”
“The current high iron ore price environment, supported by Fenix’s hedging arrangements which extend into the next financial year, combined with strong performance from our mining, haulage, and port operational teams, provides confidence in a positive full year result for Fenix.”