Glencore trades market difficulties for 57% rise in profits

Glencore's first-half net income rose to shining $2.45bn - proof that a few lucky companies are still finding gold in market turmoil...

by Dave Waller
Last Updated: 20 Nov 2012
Ah, the delights of a cyclical business. The world’s biggest commodities trader has benefited from strong commodity demand in Asia, which has helped keep prices up. Couple that with a decent level of production and it’s setting itself up for a strong performance throughout the rest of the year. Which is something it’s gotten rather used to – note its earth-shattering $89bn turnover last year.

And it’s somehow looking even meatier now. Of course, that's helped by the fact that Glencore owns both production and trading arms, meaning it effectively benefits at both end - so during good times, it gets double the benefit. Operating profit for its marketing division rose 45% year-on-year in the first half. Income from oil trading was more than double a year ago. On the industrial side, which includes Glencore's metals, energy and agricultural production, the strong commodities prices helped boost operating profit by 54%.

The news will certainly be welcomed by the Swiss-based, London listed company, which sold nearly $10bn of stock when it floated last year. One of the main reasons for the float was to bolster its war chest by a cool $10bn, so it could make acquisitions. And this does seem like the perfect time to have a few extra quid kicking about in the coffers: pounce on opportunities now and there may be some real bargains.

Glencore doesn’t seem to be messing around. Yesterday it launched a US$280m bid to take full control of Minara Resources, an Australia-based nickel miner in which it already controls a 73% stake, having previously offered $475m to acquire one of Peru’s largest copper prospects, the Mina Justa project.

And the quest for world domination doesn’t end there: Glencore may be getting closer to the aim of merging with Xstrata, the London-listed miner in which Glencore owns a 34% stake, or Louis Dreyfus Commodities, one of the largest traders of agricultural raw materials, both of which it’s identified as potential targets. There must be something going wrong, surely? Ah yes, let’s recall the reaction against their copper mining activity in Zambia, and the ongoing investigation into their tax affairs in the country. The rich may keep getting richer, but the current social mood tells us that at some point you have to put something back…

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