If you had asked board directors at the beginning of last week which of two situations – the stand-off between Russia and Ukraine in Crimea, and the forthcoming British Budget – was politically riskier, they would have chosen the first. But for a few insurers involved in the lucrative business of offering annuities to pensioners, Britain turned out to be the more perilous place after George Osborne, the UK chancellor, astounded them by announcing reforms that could cut the size of that market by 90 per cent.
Mick Davis’s departure from Glencore-Xstrata without serving a six-month transition period at the merged company is a classic dog-bites-man story. It looked inevitable even when my colleague Helen Thomas and I met him in January for an interview, but the Xstrata chief executive and cricket fan played a straight bat to questions about whether he would sit patiently in his office after what he plainly described as a takeover by Glencore. Read more
A merger between Anglo American and Xstrata falls into the “what if?” category of corporate counterfactuals. Anglo rebuffed Xstrata’s 2009 approach and the latter is now itself in the waiting room for a takeover from its largest shareholder Glencore.
But as Xstrata’s boss Mick Davis told me and Helen Thomas last week, he still feels he could have applied some merger-magic to Anglo, which on Tuesday confirmed speculation that it would write down the value of its Minas-Rio Brazilian iron ore project. Mr Davis said he had “absolutely no doubt” that he would have been able to liberate a more entrepreneurial culture at Anglo, by devolving more responsibility to operational managers, as at Xstrata. Here are his comments in full: Read more
Xstrata’s novel decision to allow its investors to uncouple their vote on whether to approve retention payments from their vote on whether to back a merger offer from Glencore is fascinating.
But it seems to me that Glencore and Xstrata are polling the wrong people. If it is true, as Xstrata chairman Sir John Bond and the non-executive directors say, that “without the ability to retain key Xstrata managers to run the combined group’s mining operations… the value proposition of the combined entity is at risk”, shareholders are still short of a piece of vital information. Read more
Much has been made of the independence or otherwise of Glencore’s non-executive directors and of the inappropriate and unhelpful remarks of its chairman, Simon Murray, about women in the boardroom (there are none in Glencore’s*).
But I wonder how strong a challenge even the most independent directors can mount to hardened executives who are steeped in the Glencore corporate culture. Read more