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BHP Billiton offer still short, says Rio Tinto; MINING.

A gap still exists between BHP Billiton's improved 3.4-for-one share offer and Rio Tinto's value, it was claimed yesterday.

"Our board strongly believes that there is clear water between the offer and the fair value of the company and that's a long, long way from value," Rio Tinto's chief executive Tom Albanese said after the mining group's fullyear results.

Mr Albanese rebuffed BHP's initial 3-for-1 share approach from the world's biggest miner as being "several ballparks away".

Rio Tinto, the world's third-biggest mining company, said it had not held any dialogue with BHP since the beginning of November, when BHP made its initial approach, and that its last contact with Chinalco was on the afternoon following the Chinese state-owned aluminium producer's stake purchase.

Chinalco and Alcoa acquired a nine per cent stake in Rio Tinto for about pounds 7.13 billion on February 1 and the companies are seeking approval in Australia to raise their holding to 19.9 per cent.

Rio Tinto said Chinalco's shareholding was not something it had solicited.

BHP's revised offer for Rio Tinto earlier this month valued its smaller rival at about pounds 74 billion.

BHP has said it is working with key regulators to assist them with their review of the group's takeover offer. Rio Tinto said it will fully comply with regulators and that its assistance will be "fact-based and not opinion-orientated". Analysts estimate the regulatory approval process could take up to a year to complete.

On whether BHP's approach could turn hostile, Rio Tinto said: "We will play the card we are dealt with very thoughtfully."

The ongoing acquisition battle overshadowed the group's results.

Rio Tinto reported that net profit for 2007 slipped 1.7 per cent to pounds 3.7 billion, the first decline in annual earnings since 2003. But underlying profit was pounds 3.7 billion, up 1.4 per cent on 2006.
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Feb 14, 2008
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