Glencore: in a deep hole

Glencore's heavy debt load and the low price of metals have sent investors in the commodities trader running for the door.

15-10-1-Glencore-634

Investors are fleeing the commodities giant

Shares in mining and commodities trading giant Glencore plunged by 30% last Monday. The slump was due to more poor Chinese data and a note from Investec saying Glencore's equity could be worthless if metals prices stay low. The main worry is the group's massive debt load of $30bn. Scepticism over its ability to cope with this debt is growing. The price of insuring Glencore's debt against default has jumped to the highest level since the global crisis in 2009.

On Tuesday, Glencore said it remained "operationally robust" and had access to "strong lines of credit". Citigroup said the company looked undervalued and should consider going private if the stockmarket failed to value it fairly. The shares bounced but remain around 80% below their 2011 flotation price.

What the commentators said

One major problem, as Jim Armitage pointed out in The Independent, is that "nobody knows when, if, or by how much, demand for Glencore's products will return". Its own forecasts havebeen too bullish in recent years. There are also recurrent questions about what is happening at its commodities trading division, an "inherently opaque" business. It says its debt-funded positions are all hedged and its balance sheet can cope, but "there are niggling doubts".

So what next? "One has to admire the chutzpah" Citigroup has displayed with its suggestion that Glencore go private, said Nils Pratley in The Guardian. Investment banks have done extremely well out of it ever since its overpriced floatation. The recent share placing, which Citigroup helped set up at 125p, was just the latest bonanza.

Now Citigroup is lining itself up for more fees from a buyout, and is even floating the idea of another flotation a few years down the track. How absurd. The last thing this overleveraged company needs is "another layer of buyout debt". Instead, it should be selling some assets "at half-decent prices" to get its debts down.

Recommended

Tech has dominated the economy – but the real world is about to strike back
Industrial metals

Tech has dominated the economy – but the real world is about to strike back

The digital economy has driven tech stocks to incredible valuations. But it is all dependent on the real-world economy. And particularly on metals and…
7 Apr 2021
Make money from the metals mining boom in Latin America
Industrial metals

Make money from the metals mining boom in Latin America

Covid-19 has hit Latin America harder than any other. But the continent's highly competitive mining sector looks poised to profit handsomely over the …
23 Oct 2020
The charts that matter: gold up; dollar down
Global Economy

The charts that matter: gold up; dollar down

Gold rallied a little this week, while the US dollar drifted. Here’s how the charts that matter most to the global economy reacted.
10 Apr 2021
Nuclear power might never be popular – but now looks a good time to invest
Commodities

Nuclear power might never be popular – but now looks a good time to invest

Nuclear power gets a very bad press, but it is the ultimate renewable energy source. Interest in it is perking up again, says John Stepek. Which means…
9 Apr 2021

Most Popular

The bitcoin bubble will burst: here’s how to play it
Bitcoin

The bitcoin bubble will burst: here’s how to play it

The cryptocurrency’s price has soared far beyond its fundamentals, says Matthew Partridge. Here, he looks at how to short bitcoin.
12 Apr 2021
Four investment trusts for income investors to buy now
Investment trusts

Four investment trusts for income investors to buy now

Some high-yielding listed lending funds have come through the crisis with flying colours. David Stevenson picks four of the best.
12 Apr 2021
Central banks are rushing to build digital currencies. What are they, and what do they mean for you?
Bitcoin

Central banks are rushing to build digital currencies. What are they, and what do they mean for you?

As bitcoin continues to soar in value, many of the world’s central banks are looking to emulate it by issuing their own digital currencies. But centra…
8 Apr 2021