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Rio Tinto CEO leaves door open to higher bid from BHP
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21st January 2008
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Rio Tinto CE Tom Albanese on Sunday left the door open to a sweetened takeover offer from BHP Billiton, but said Rio would be happy to grow on its own if BHP walked away.

The world's biggest miner, BHP, must make a formal offer by February 6 or leave Rio alone for at least six months under a deadline imposed by the UK Takeover Panel.

Rio shares jumped 4., percent in London on Friday on talk that BHP was set to improve its offer to 3,58 of its shares plus A$16,50 cash for Rio from a three-for-one all share offer, which was worth $140-billion when revealed last November.

While continuing to talk up the company's growth prospects, Albanese did not rule out accepting an improved offer.

"It's again all about value. If the value's not there, it's not there. If it is there, it is there. But I wouldn't want to speculate on anything specifically," he told Sky Television.

He said if BHP walked away on February 6, Rio would focus on expanding alone.

"We have a great business in a great market, and we are ready to grow that business and make it even stronger," Albanese said on Sky Television's Sunday Business programme in Australia.

He reiterated that BHP's three-for-one share swap proposal was not good enough.

"This is all about value, and this is value to the Rio Tinto shareholders. Back in November we said that the takeover proposal which BHP submitted and that Rio Tinto rejected wasn't even close to matching that value equation," Albanese said.

"I'm as confident about that as I was back then."

Rio Tinto expects China's growth will mostly offset any decline in U.S. demand for metals, after producing record volumes of iron ore, copper, bauxite, alumina and gold in 2007.

"For virtually everything we produce, if we produced any more, we'd still be selling it," Albanese said.

He said Chinese demand for aluminium was on track to increase by 15 percent in 2008, following a higher-than-expected 30 percent rise last year.

"All the numbers that we've talked about over the past few months, if anything, they're looking stronger," Albanese said.

Edited by: User not found.

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