Global miner Rio Tinto signalled a major retreat from its aluminium business on Monday, putting $8 billion worth of assets up for sale, just four years after it bought aluminium giant Alcan for $38 billion.
The company said it planned to sell 13 assets, including smelters and alumina refineries, in a move interpreted as a way of diverting yet more resources to iron ore, which now accounts for nearly 80% of group earnings.
“It’s all about returns and these big miners are always re-evaluating their businesses,” said Gavin Wendt, senior mining analyst for Mine Life in Sydney.
The sale, which would leave Rio Tinto’s remaining aluminium business focused mainly on its more profitable Canadian operations, is designed to help the group more than double its aluminium earnings margins to 40% by 2015.
“We’re going to be in no rush (to sell),” said Rio Tinto Alcan chief executive Jacynthe Cote. She declined to say whether Rio Tinto was already in talks with potential buyers.