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What Is Vale SA Doing to Decrease Risks on Its Balance Sheet?

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Balance sheet position

For commodities (DBC), including iron ore, 2015 was nothing short of a nightmare. Iron ore stocks such as Rio Tinto (RIO), BHP Billiton (BHP) (BBL), Vale SA (VALE), and Cliffs Natural Resources (CLF) fell to multiyear lows.

While 2016 is holding up better in terms of commodity prices, the financial concerns for these companies are far from over. Vale’s debt, in particular, rose as it embarked on a growth phase.

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Vale ended 2Q16 with net debt of $27.5 billion. It fell slightly sequentially mainly due to positive free cash flow (or FCF) generated during the quarter. Positive FCF, however, was offset to an extent by the unfavorable exchange rate translation. The company expects to lower its net debt to $15 billion–$17 billion by 2017.

Vale’s balance sheet still remains one of the company’s major investor concerns.

Capex reduction

One of the main reasons for Vale’s rising debt is its higher capex (capital expenditure) requirements compared to its peers. For its peers, the growth phase is more or less over. But Vale’s S11D is still ramping up. Now, Vale is focusing on discipline in capital allocation with a reduction in capex. The company has revised its capex downward for 2016 and beyond. Its capex has been trending downward since 2011 when $16.3 billion was allocated.

The iShares MSCI Global Metals & Mining Producers ETF (PICK) provides diversified exposure to the metals and mining sector. Rio Tinto’s listings form 11.5% of PICK’s holdings. The SPDR S&P Metals and Mining ETF (XME) also invests in some of these stocks.

In the next part, we’ll see what the company is doing to generate positive free cash flow and whether it will be enough to see it through these volatile times.

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