Mubadala and partner set for first iron ore shipment from Porte Sudeste in Brazil

Mubadala and Trafigura, its partner at Porte Sudeste, are set for their first iron ore shipment after acquiring a controlling stake in the Brazilian port last year.

An 80,000-tonne vessel loaded with iron ore heading to China will mark the first export for the terminal in Rio de Janeiro.

“Porto Sudeste is a strategically important addition to Brazil’s infrastructure, and will, over the long term, provide additional capacity, improved access to export markets for iron ore producers and unlock Brazil’s production overall,” said a Mubadala spokesman. “Together with Trafigura, we are pleased to see the emergence of this growing supply chain that will use Porto Sudeste as a key outlet to world markets.”

The port has the capacity to receive, handle and load more than 25 million tonnes of iron ore a year, which will rise to a nominal capacity of 50 million tonnes by the end of the year.

In addition, Amsterdam-based Trafigura yesterday announced plans to buy two additional iron-ore assets from the former tycoon Eike Batista, although no official figures were released.

Trafigura said the creditors of MMX Sudeste, an iron ore miner, accepted its offer as part of the “MMX Sudeste judicial recovery plan”.

“Trafigura and its subsidiaries operate in the ferrous mining sector and these assets represent an opportunity to expand its businesses, as well as complement the joint investment with Mubadala at the Sudeste port,” Trafigura said.

Trafigura and Mubadala joined forces to acquire a controlling stake in the port from Mr Batista’s MMX Mineraçao e Metalicos in a US$955 million deal finalised in February last year.

Yet the iron ore market, much like other commodities, has undergone a volatile 12 months of trading. Iron ore recently sank to a decade low because of record output from majors such as Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton.

“A broad basket of commodities has fallen to the lowest level in 16 years,” said Ole Hansen, the head of commodity strategy at Denmark’s Saxo Bank.

“The main trigger for this weakness has not been slowing demand, but more because of increased supply at a time where demand growth has failed to keep up.”

The iron ore industry is also being hit by the economic slowdown in China, as the country, which buys nearly two-thirds of all iron ore traded internationally, ordered steelmakers and other heavy industries to shut down. This has resulted in the country’s demand for iron ore staying broadly flat at about 539 million tonnes for the first seven months, compared with the same period last year. Iron ore prices dropped last Monday to $53.28 a tonne, but rallied on Friday to $56.04 a tonne. Iron ore prices a year ago were at about $88 a tonne.

Because of rising production amid weaker demand, “new lower levels are being sought in order for the market to find a proper balance between supply and demand”, said Mr Hansen.

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