BHP Billiton (LON:BLT) is in talks with partner Vale over the future of their Samarco iron-ore joint venture, including the possibility of the Brazilian miner taking full ownership, Bloomberg has reported. The news comes after the operation won a preliminary permit to begin work to prepare for an eventual restart following the 2015 disaster.
BHP Billiton’s share price has been steady in London this morning, having added 0.35 percent to 1,549.80p as of 09:26 GMT. The stock is marginally outperforming the broader UK market, with the benchmark FTSE 100 index currently standing 0.22 percent higher at 7,687.66 points. The group’s shares have added just under 18 percent to their value over the past year, as compared with an over six-percent rise in the Footsie.
BHP Billiton and Vale in talks
Sources with knowledge of the matter told Bloomberg yesterday that Vale and BHP Billiton were in talks over Samarco’s future, with one of the options potentially seeing Vale acquiring BHP’s half-share in what was once the world’s second-largest iron-ore pellet operation. The newswire notes that Brazil’s Veja had reported earlier that the two owners were talking about a deal for the mine which has been shuttered since a deadly 2015 dam spill.
Reuters meanwhile quoted a source in its coverage of the talks as saying that a price has not yet been agreed for any buyout and that it would depend on BHP’s willingness to exit the venture.
Bloomberg notes that while Vale and BHP both committed to financing reparations related to the 2015 tragedy, they refused to help Samarco service the billions of dollars in bank debt and bonds it holds. Creditors are hoping the mine can reopen and resume payments.