BHP, Rio Tinto Sign Joint Venture Deal

Companies expect completion of the joint venture in the second half of 2010

Mining giants BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto said on Dec. 5 they had signed a binding agreement on combining their vast iron ore operations in Western Australia, and have submitted the deal to the EU.

The two firms said the agreement first announced on June 5, aimed at savings worth an estimated $10 billion has now been confirmed.

Submissions had been made to both the Australian competition commission and the European Commission regarding the deal, they said, adding that they understood the EU authorities were already investigating the tie-up. European steel makers had called for an investigation amid concerns that the merger would be anti-competitive.

"Taking into account all regulatory review processes and shareholder approvals, Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton anticipate completion of the joint venture in the second half of calendar year 2010," the statement added.

The joint venture was announced after the collapse of a $19.5 billion bid for Rio by Chinese state-owned firm Chinalco. It also followed BHP's dropping last November of a hostile takeover bid for Rio amid the global economic turmoil.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009

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