Glencore to continue bringing in younger leaders

Glencore’s chief executive said the miner and commodity trader would continue with its transition toward a new, younger generation of leaders in 2020.

Speaking at the company’s annual investor briefing in London, Ivan Glasenberg, who has been at the helm since 2002, said there would be more changes at the top of the Swiss-based company.

“We’ll start moving forward to ensure that we get a top younger new generation to take over the company,” he said.

The 62-year-old has previously said he plans to retire in the next two to four years if he has found a suitable replacement but his latest comments suggest the transition could happen sooner.

Potential candidates include Kenny Ives, the head of nickel, Gary Nagle, who runs Glencore’s coal business, and Nico Paraskevas, head of copper trading.

Only a handful of executives from the time of Glencore’s 2011 flotation are still at the company. These include Mr Glasenberg, chief financial officer Steven Kalmin, head of coal trading Tor Peterson, and Daniel Mate, who leads its zinc business.

“There are not many of us old guys left,” Mr Glasenberg said.

Over the past few years there have been a string of departures from Glencore, which reflect a bigger transformation at the company from swashbuckling trader to more prosaic miner.

These have included the retirement of Alex Beard, the head of oil; the company’s copper kingpin Telis Mistakidis; Stuart Cutler, the head of ferroalloys trading; and Chris Mahoney, the former Olympic rower who ran its agricultural business.

Glencore also used Tuesday’s investor briefing to set out plans to reduce net debt to one times adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (ebitda) over the next 12-months. In June the ratio stood at 1.24.

If excess cash is used to reduce debt that could limit the potential for Glencore to repurchase shares. The company’s current $2bn share buyback programme is close to being completed and is unlikely to be topped up unless it is able to sell non-core assets or there is a big rebound in commodity prices.

Glencore is targeting an additional $700m of assets sales, on top of the $300m of proceeds it has already received this year.

“The group is guiding to matching the 2019 dividend of 20 cents a share for the next year, which is in line with our forecast of 20 cents a share,” said analysts at Citi. “As expected, there is limited scope for incremental shareholder returns at this stage.”

Glencore also said it was targeting annual copper and cobalt production of 300,000 and 30,000 tonnes respectively from Katanga, its huge copper and cobalt mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo by 2021. It also said the restart of the copper smelter at its Mopani mine in Zambia was expected early in the new year.

Glencore has been grappling with issues in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia, which contributed to a sharp drop in half-year profits. Katanga is one of Glencore’s most important growth assets and a key part of its investment case. Copper and cobalt are materials that will be needed in greater quantities as transport and cities are electrified.

“We are on track to deliver,” said Peter Freyberg, the head of Glencore’s industrial, or mining assets. “Katanga is going really well.”

Glencore is one of the world’s biggest producers of thermal coal, which is burnt in power stations to generate electricity. Mr Glasenberg said he believed coal still “had a future” in spite of the shift to cleaner sources of energy. “It will be needed for baseload power.”