By Rhiannon Hoyle
Rio Tinto PLC has scrubbed plans for a sale or initial public offering of its Canadian iron-ore unit, following a yearslong effort to unload the business, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Rio Tinto /zigman2/quotes/202627887/composite RIO -4.03% /zigman2/quotes/208934945/delayed UK:RIO -5.92% /zigman2/quotes/200083756/delayed AU:RIO -2.67% has been shopping around its 59% stake in Iron Ore Co. of Canada on-and-off since 2013, but hasn’t been able to find an agreeable price with potential suitors as iron-ore prices have waxed and waned.
Global miners including Rio Tinto have spent several years selling or spinning off assets in a bid to reduce debt and lift shareholder returns by focusing on only their most profitable or promising operations. Iron-ore prices this year surged to their highest value since early 2014 on concerns over a shortfall, but have since eased and are widely forecast to edge lower over the coming year.
Executives at Rio Tinto, which in Australia runs one of the world’s biggest iron-ore operations globally, had previously said they were under no pressure to offload the Canadian business. “I want to clean up the portfolio as quickly as I can but, at the same time, there will not be a fire sale,” Chief Executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques had said in 2017 of his strategy to sell assets.
The decision to tell bankers to stop working on the process for a sale or IPO for the Canadian unit was earlier reported by Bloomberg.
Iron Ore Co. of Canada produces iron-ore concentrate and pellets from mining operations and processing facilities in Newfoundland and Labrador. It also runs port facilities in Quebec.
The business is a joint venture between Rio Tinto, Mitsubishi Corp. /zigman2/quotes/208582984/delayed JP:8058 +2.39% , which owns 26%, and the Labrador Iron Ore Royalty Income Corp. /zigman2/quotes/209631427/delayed CA:LIF -1.30% , which owns 15%.
It recorded net earnings of $166 million for Rio Tinto in 2018, down from $235 million the year earlier. Its operations had been suspended for two months during the year amid labor negotiations.