Speculation last week was that Phoenix-based Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold might be a target of a takeover attempt by London-based Rio Tinto to thwart the proposed $150 billion takeover of Rio Tinto by BHP Billiton.
Rio Tinto and Freeport are partners in the Resolution copper mine under development in central Arizona.
In recent days market analysts are speculating that China is opposing the BHP-Rio Tinto merger because it would consolidate the world's biggest iron ore producers. The combined company would control 40% of the world market for iron ore, according to Economist magazine. The analysts say China's growth is consuming half of the world's iron ore and they want more competition to lower prices, so they may working behind the scenes to prevent the merger. German steelmakers are opposing the merger as well.
Rio Tinto is fighting the merger proposal by raising its dividend by 30%, and increased the expected savings from buying Canada's Alcan in July by over 50%, promising $940 million a year. Rio Tinto also plans to triple its iron-ore output, in part by investing $2 billion in its Western Australian mine complex.
What role Freeport may play in this international game is still to be seen.