Marius Kloppers, CEO of BHP Billiton (BHP.NYSE, BLT.LSE, BHP.ASX), harboured concerns about industrial espionage in China, Reuters reported. Leaked diplomatic cables revealed that Kloppers had spoken about these issues to an Australia-based envoy in 2009. At the time, he said the danger of espionage was a key reason behind his push to replace annual closed-door price negotiations over iron ore contracts in China with a more market-based system. When asked about the cables, Kloppers said, "One of the reasons we have pushed so hard for market-clearing prices is so that these sorts of things are not a concern, because if you sell your product at the market-clearing price, that everybody can read off screens, it minimizes any impact of differential information that the one party or the other may hold." Despite objections from Chinese steel producers, BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto (RIO.LSE, RIO.ASX) and Vale (VALE.NYSE, VALE3.Euronext, 6210.HK, VALE3.BOVES) succeeded in switching to a system whereby prices are set on a quarterly basis, largely based on the previous quarter’s spot prices.
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