Rio Tinto names ex-BHP executive as new CFO

MELBOURNE Thu Feb 28, 2013 1:22am EST

MELBOURNE Feb 28 (Reuters) - World no.3 miner Rio Tinto has appointed former BHP Billiton finance chief, Chris Lynch, as its new chief financial officer to replace the well-respected Guy Elliott, who flagged his retirement last year.

Lynch left BHP after being overlooked for the top job in 2007 and was chief executive of Australian toll road operator Transurban Group from 2008 to 2012, during which time he joined the board of Rio Tinto.

"Chris Lynch is an extremely high-calibre addition to our executive team with a strong pedigree of board, mining and financial experience," Rio's new chief executive, Sam Walsh, said in a statement.

Lynch, who will take over in April, comes into the finance role as Rio focuses on cutting $5 billion in costs and reining in mega projects to improve shareholder returns.

Elliott, Rio's longest serving director, is retiring after more than 32 years at Rio Tinto, where he has been CFO since 2002.

He has managed to retire gracefully in stark contrast to former chief executive Tom Albanese, who was sacked last month for two misjudged acquisitions that resulted in massive writedowns.

Rio has written down more than $20 billion on its $38 billion top-of-the-market takeover of Alcan in 2007, just before the global financial crisis, and written down three-quarters of its $4.2 billion acquisition of Riversdale Mining in 2012.

Elliott, who is also a non-executive director at Royal Dutch Shell, gave up his bonus last year due to the Alcan writedowns.

Media reports have suggested that Elliott escaped relatively unscathed as he had not been in favour of the debt-funded Alcan deal and also opposed Rio's controversial plan to shore up its balance sheet in 2009 through an $18.5 billion deal that would have given Chinese state-owned Chinalco stakes in key assets.

That deal was scrapped in favour of a tie-up with BHP Billiton's iron ore business, which also never went ahead.

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