--Xstrata Copper CEO says demand to revive in second half
--Xstrata Copper CEO says company committed to projects
(Adds details on China's copper demand and recent price moves from third paragraph.)
By Rhiannon Hoyle
Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
SYDNEY -(Dow Jones)- Copper demand from China, the world's largest consumer of the industrial metal, is expected to pick up in the second half of the year, although the outlook in Europe remains concerning, the head of Xstrata PLC's (XTA.LN) copper division said Tuesday, adding that future investment decisions may be affected by continued global economic uncertainty.
"The commentary on China is difficult to read on a month-to-month basis," Xstrata Copper Chief Executive Charlie Sartain said on the sidelines of a mining conference in Sydney. "(But) we expect to see actual demand of copper picking up."
China's bustling real estate and manufacturing sectors helped the country become the world's largest consumer of copper, accounting for about 40% of the world's annual supply. However, Beijing's clamp down on real-estate speculation has damped interest in the red metal.
Copper prices have plunged in May amid fears that Greece would exit the euro zone and risk a sovereign-debt default. Copper is used in everything from solar power panels and transatlantic telecommunication cables to portable music players and air-conditioners, and its price is sensitive to shifts in economic outlook.
Mr. Sartain described the global economic outlook as "problematic" but said that Xstrata is committed to a US$7 billion pipeline of new projects, which will deliver a 60% rise in its annual production by 2015. His remarks follow cautious comments from BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP), which last week backed away from its $80 billion five-year spending program and signs that coal mining companies are slowing down investments in Australia as demand drops.
"Our growth profile should continue (although this will be) market conditions dependent when we look to make decisions over this next 18 months," said Mr. Sartain.
Mr. Sartain expects China to pick up its purchasing activity in the second half of the year, with recent measures by the government to stimulate its cooling economy a positive for industrial metal markets, he said.
This gives Xstrata the chance to "see what evolves in the world over the next 12-18 months (and) make decisions when we see the investment (environment) is suitable," said Mr. Sartain.
Even if China's economy slows, industrial production growth of around 9% is forecast for this year, "not the end of the world by any means," he said.
Acquisition remains a key pillar of Xstrata Copper's strategy, and the proposed merger with commodities titan Glencore International PLC (GLEN.LN) "will be the next major growth story for the group," said Mr. Sartain.
"Our business strategy as we see it will progress through acquisitions. Xstrata and Xstrata Copper have (historically) been acquisitive by nature," he said.
-By Rhiannon Hoyle, Dow Jones Newswires; 61-2-8272-4625; email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
May 22, 2012 00:40 ET (04:40 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.