Glencore serves up payout for billionaire shareholders despite slump in earnings

Michael Bow
Romina Amato/Reuters

Commodities giant Glencore shrugged off a loss of form on Tuesday to pay a trio of billionaire shareholders more than $400 million in dividends.

The mining and trading giant, a key cog in the global economy supplying commodities like copper and coal, revealed a widely expected slump in earnings for 2019.

But it pleased shareholders by paying a 20 cents per share dividend equal to $2.6 billion.

That delivers around $242 million for chief executive and top shareholder Ivan Glasenberg, the whirlwind 63-year-old South African who has led the company for the past 18 years.

Around $90 million is also set for Glencore’s head of zinc Daniel Mate and former head of copper trading Telis Mistakidis, who retired in 2018, who are also top shareholders.

Glencore earned the nickname the “billionaire boys club” after a 2011 stock-market float made dozens of staff at its headquarters in Baar, Switzerland rich.

This generation of leaders are slowly being phased out in favour of younger executives. Glasenberg has hinted he may retire sooner rather than later, last year announcing a review into handing over the reins.

Last year was tough for Glencore, as tense trade negotiations between the US and China, tumbling commodity prices and production problems at its Katanga copper mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo ravaged performance.

Adjusted earnings, the company’s preferred measure of performance, fell 26% to $11.6 billion. The shares dropped 2.8%, or 6.7p, to 230p. There was no update on a Serious Fraud Office bribery probe, which was revealed in December.

The company is also being investigating by the US Department of Justice over business dealings in Nigeria, the DRC and Venezuela.