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Glencore Ready for Graft Problems

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Mining and commodities trading giant Glencore said Tuesday it set aside $1.5 billion as it expects to resolve corruption investigations in the United States, Britain and Brazil this year.

The Switzerland-based company made the announcement in a company results statement showing that it returned to profit last year, pulled up by higher commodity prices after a loss when the Covid pandemic emerged in 2020.

Glencore disclosed in 2018 that the US Justice Department had launched a corruption investigation linked to the group’s business in Nigeria, Venezuela and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

A year later, the UK’s Serious Fraud Office said it was investigating suspicions of bribery by the Glencore group of companies and staff.

Brazil also opened a probe in 2018 into Glencore and trading groups Vitol and Trafigura over alleged bribery of employees at state-run oil company Petrobras.

“Glencore has been cooperating extensively with the various authorities in order to resolve these investigations as expeditiously as possible,” the company said.

“While Glencore cannot forecast with certainty the cost, extent, timing or terms of the outcomes of the investigations, the Company presently expects to resolve the US, UK and Brazilian investigations in 2022,” it added.

While Glencore eyes an end to its legal troubles, the company posted a net profit of nearly $5 billion (4.4 billion euros) for 2021 after a loss of $1.9 billion the previous year.

Glencore said its strong result especially reflected surging demand and prices for its metals and energy products, which had seen its pre-tax earnings jump 118 percent to $17.1 billion.

“In spite of the ongoing challenges of Covid-19, 2021 was an extraordinary year for Glencore,” company chief executive Gary Nagle said in a statement.

The company’s earnings on metals alone ticked in at $12 billion — soaring 65 percent from a year earlier — while earnings in its energy unit rose fivefold to $5.6 billion.

The company, which has long been struggling to bring down towering debt, said it had made good progress in 2021, more than halving its debt load to $6 billion.

Glencore launched a massive cost-cutting drive in 2015 when its debt ballooned to almost $30 billion as commodity prices had tanked.

On Tuesday, Glencore said it would dish out $4 billion to its shareholders as it more than doubled the dividend to $0.26 per share.

In addition, it launched a new $550-million share buyback programme.

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S. Jack Heffernan Ph.D. Economist at Knightsbridge holds a Ph.D. in Economics and brings with him over 25 years of trading experience in Asia and hands on experience in Venture Capital, he has been involved in several start ups that have seen market capitalization over $500m and 1 that reach a peak market cap of $15b. He has managed and overseen start ups in Crypto, Mining, Shipping, Technology and Financial Services.