Glencore, Anglo-Swiss multinational commodity trading and mining company, has announced a 75% takeover stake in Chevron Corp.’s oil refining and fuel service stations in South Africa and Botswana in a deal worth about $973 million. The announcement Friday makes the worth of the commodity trading giant’s acquisitions in a week to $2 billion as it had earlier on Tuesday taken a bigger stake in Vulcan, Latin America’s top zinc miner in South Africa.
Specifically, the Swiss commodities company agreed to buy a controlling stake in Chevron Corp.’s assets in southern Africa for $973 million. The assets include a 100,000 barrel-a-day refinery in Cape Town and more than 800 gas stations.
Details of the deal indicate Glencore will buy 75 percent of Chevron’s South African and Botswanan business from minority black investors who exercised a pre-emptive right. It however plans to support the black investor group, Off The Shelf Investments Fifty Six Pty Ltd., as a technical and financial partner, according to a statement.
Earlier on Tuesday, Glencore had also pushed into South American zinc by inking a deal to take a bigger stake in Peru’s Volcan Cia. Minera SAA. It will acquire 27 percent of Volcan’s Class-A voting shares for $531 million. It may increase its stake even further via a public tender, which could leave the total price tag at $956 million.
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Zinc prices have doubled to $3,279 a metric ton since the start of 2016, driven by mine shutdowns and China’s curbs on pollution and mine safety. Last month, spot zinc traded at the biggest premium to futures in 10 years, a condition called backwardation that’s a red flag for demand overshooting supply.
The Chevron acquisition, together with a recent deal in Mexico, to invest in fuel service stations and terminals, signals a shift in Glencore’s business to downstream sector.
Until now, the company had invested in so-called upstream assets, such as oil fields, to complement its trading operation. After significant writedowns in oil fields in countries including Chad, Glencore is now investing in so-called downstream businesses such as refining and fuel service stations.
The two deals in a week are a strongest sign yet that Glencore and its billionaire chief executive are hungry for acquisitions and growth as business revs back from the commodities crisis of 2015.
It also highlights the company’s divergent business strategy compared with major players Rio Tinto Group and BHP Billiton Ltd., who have focused on dividends and stock buybacks.
Glencore has “a choice of returning cash to shareholders or buying assets that they think can deliver more than that,” said Paul Gait, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein Ltd. in London. “If you are a shareholder in Glencore, you probably think Ivan Glasenberg is a shrewd operator that can add value in that process.”
It comes as commodities traders including Vitol Group BV and Trafigura Group have pushed into the business globally, to help offset declining margins in their bread-and-butter trading businesses. The firms now have hundreds of stations from Latin America to Africa serving as outlets for the products they trade.
Peter Grauer, the chairman of Bloomberg LP, is a senior independent non-executive director at Glencore.
Frontpage November 1, 2019