Page last updated at 10:39 GMT, Monday, 30 June 2008 11:39 UK

Rio shares up on bid speculation

Worker cooling steel slag

Shares in miner Rio Tinto have risen on speculation that steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal could buy a stake.

The Financial Times said that the boss of Arcelor Mittal is keen to secure supplies of iron ore - a key ingredient in making steel.

Rio Tinto, a key producer of the raw material, is the target of a $147bn (73.7bn) hostile bid by BHP Billiton. Steel makers fear that a merged group would have too much control over the supply and price of iron ore.

Rio Tinto shares rose as much as 2.5% and were trading at 5,954 pence, up 111p, or 1.9% in mid-morning London trade.

Rio's shares are also listed in Australia, where they rose.

Steel firm manoeuvres

The Financial Times report suggested that Arcelor Mittal, the world's largest steel maker, could afford to match the 9% stake bought earlier this year by China's state-owned aluminium group Chinalco together with US firm Alcoa.

Analysts told the newspaper that Mr Mittal may wait and buy iron ore assets from Rio at a later date should regulators demand the miner sells part of its business to allow a merger with BHP to go ahead.

The report came as Wall Street bank Goldman Sachs announced that Mr Mittal had joined the firm's board as an independent director.

Arcelor Mittal has been active in making sure its steel mills are well supplied.

At the weekend, the group said it had raised its stake in Australia's Macarthur Coal, which supplies steel mills with more than a third of the world's pulverised coal, to 19.9% from 14.9%.

But possible plans for a takeover bid could be scuppered by South Korean steel firm Posco - the world's fourth largest - after it paid $404m for a 10% stake in Macarthur shortly after.

Steel makers have been forced to take steps to protect themselves against painful raw material cost increases mainly due to surging demand from Asia's tiger economies, including China, to power their growth.


SEE ALSO
Arcelor looks to emerging markets
14 May 08 |  Business
Arcelor Mittal ups Chinese stake
07 Dec 07 |  Business
Steel prices boost ArcelorMittal
14 Nov 07 |  Business
Chinese whispers fuel BHP shares
16 May 08 |  Business

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