Dubai - Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund has increased its
stake in Xstrata to just over 5%, potentially making it easier for commodities
trader Glencore to buy the Anglo-Swiss miner.
The tiny Gulf Arab state, a keen commodities investor, is
now Xstrata’s third-largest shareholder behind Glencore and asset manager
BlackRock, giving it exposure to a metals powerhouse after missing out on other
Qatar has also bought stakes in luxury goods house LVMH and
oil company Total, in a recent spending spree using its natural gas riches to
diversify economic risk. It also owns shares in Credit Suisse and the upmarket
Harrods department store.
Several major shareholders have opposed Glencore's $41bn bid
for Xstrata but bankers said Qatar would be a passive investor, unlikely to
stand in the way. The deal must be backed by 75% of shareholders excluding
“Getting the Qataris on board will be good for Glencore.
They are not activist investors and won’t be looking at gaining management
"But they are opportunistic and won’t commit a pound unless they are
seeing clear benefits,” said a Dubai-based banker.
Regulatory filings showed that the Qatar Investment
Authority (QIA) built up its Xstrata holding, worth $2.65bn at current prices,
through stock market transactions from around 3% when Glencore announced its
No immediate comment was available from the Qatar fund.
Glencore plans to buy Xstrata in an all-share transaction
that could create a combined group worth more than £50bn, shaking up the
industry with its biggest deal to date.
Key Xstrata shareholders - including Standard Life Investments
and Schroders - are seeking better terms from Glencore.
Glencore, the world’s largest diversified commodities
trader, already owns 34% of Xstrata. A tie-up between the two has long been
expected as Glencore wants to add more mines to its trading clout.
Under the terms of the transaction, Xstrata shareholders
other than Glencore would hold 45% of the new company, to be named Glencore
Xstrata International, even though Xstrata assets would comprise about 65% of
the combined group’s asset value.
Top of the shopping list
Bankers said Qatar is likely to keep building its stake.
“The cash stake is about 4.75% and it is the derivatives
position which has seen the stake go up by 5%. It’s not normal of Qatar to go
above the 5% threshold... they could end up owning more,” said the banker.
Another banker said that Qatar, among the richest countries
in the world per capita, would likely buy more.
“These companies are on top of QIA’s shopping list and the
sector is very strategic... we wouldn’t be surprised if this happens gradually
in the coming few months,” he said.
Glencore is the top Xstrata shareholder with a 33.65% stake,
followed by BlackRock which has a 5.43% ownership in the miner.
Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund, estimated to have assets of
around $100bn, is widely seen as the most aggressive in the world, ploughing
gas dollars into a range of Western assets including automakers, prime real
estate and global banks.
It is known to be an enthusiastic investor in commodities.
Qatar Holding, the sovereign wealth fund’s investment arm, missed out on a $1bn
investment in European Goldfields last year after the company instead agreed on
a $2.4bn takeover by Canadian group Eldorado Gold.
Qatar surprised many observers by passing on the Glencore
initial public offering last year as rival Abu Dhabi fund Aabar bought into the
Glencore shares have fallen 22% since their listing in May
last year, and Xstrata shares have lost 20% over the same period, so Qatar’s
current purchase will give it a sizeable stake in the merged entity at a
“This is typical Qatar. They prefer to be the largest
minority investors and are not keen on management control. Obviously, they are
seeing value in this.
"Qataris like commodities generally and Glencore shares
have fallen off the cliff post its IPO,” said the first banker.
In recent weeks, the fund has also picked up minority stakes
in conglomerate Lagardere as well as LVMH and Total.
Bankers and sovereign wealth fund experts describe the
sovereign fund as an opportunistic investor, seeking favourable terms with
downside protection for the cash it deploys.