* Miner sees investment priorities in copper, fertilizer
* Will announce complete investment budget with Q3 results
* 2010 iron ore avg seen $130-$160/tonne, similar in 2011
(Recasts, updates with further comments from CEO)
By Steve James and Carole Vaporean
NEW YORK, Oct 18 Brazilian mining giant Vale
(VALE5.SA) (VALE.N) will need $26 billion to $28 billion over
the next two years to complete projects it has already started
with a priority on copper and fertilizer investments, the
company's CEO said at a press conference on Monday.
Vale plans to release its complete investment budget for
2011 with third-quarter earnings results slated for next week.
At the New York stock exchange, CEO Roger Agnelli also told
reporters he expected iron ore prices to average between
$130-$160 a tonne this year and sees a similar range for 2011,
with prices varying according to quality and freight costs.
"But we follow demand, which determines the price."
Still, he said, Chinese demand remained "very supportive."
Asked about the dissolution, on Monday, of a proposed iron
ore joint venture between its competitors BHP Billiton (BHP.AX)
and Rio Tinto (RIO.AX), Agnelli said he saw no potential impact
to Vale's prices.
"This is an Australian issue. They know what they are
Under Vale's newly established 90-day contract regime with
iron ore customers, (a major revamp of a long-term practice of
setting multi-year contracts), Agnelli said he thought prices
had stabilized after a year of initial volatility.
Iron prices on the spot market are currently trading
slightly above $150 per tonne .IO62-CNI=SI.
As for the company's investment budget, the executive said,
"I can say we will need $26 billion to $28 billion over the
next two years to finish projects already started."
He added that the budget is, "in line with cash generation
and the financial health of the company."
According to a source consulted by Reuters, Vale's total
investment budget for 2011 was seen between $20 billion and $25
billion, considerably more than the $12.9 billion slated for
2010 and more than the $14.2 billion budget Vale set for 2009
before the economic downturn cut it to $9 billion.
Vale's principal investment projects include the Simandou
iron project in Guinea and the Serra Sul mine, linked to the
giant Brazilian Carajas mine, expected to add 90 million tonnes
per year of iron ore output by the second semester of 2013.
While Agnelli pointed to Asia as the biggest driver of
demand for all raw materials over the next decade, with Vale's
revenues from the region expected to reach 80 percent, he also
said, he sees Africa as the new frontier for mining projects.
Asked whether Vale was on the hunt for new copper projects,
the CEO said, "If we find something interesting we're going to
go after it," adding, however, that the company did not see any
projects exciting or cheap enough to consider.
"But I want to stress that our priority is organic growth.
We don't need to go after an acquisition to be big."
Earlier this year, Vale failed to win control of copper
refiner Paranapanema (PMAM3.SA) in an auction for shares, but
is still seeking to make additional investments in that area.
"We have already pushed the button to analyze other
options, including a new smelter in Para state, a possibility
that would be cheaper than Paranapanema," the CEO said.
Vale has also invested heavily in fertilizers, taking
advantage of growing demand within Brazil and among emerging
market nations. Division director Mario Barbosa said Vale was
working to bundle its fertilizer assets over the next five or
six months, aiming to spin them off in an initial public
offering sometime in the next year.
In May, it concluded its acquisition of 58 percent of
Fosfertil FFTL4.SA for more than $3 billion, buying out Bunge
Ltd's (BG.N) stake in Brazil's largest fertilizer company.
Agnelli also adressed friction between Vale and Brazil's
ruling Workers' Party (PT) after he was quoted recently as
saying, "There are lots of people looking for a seat in the
company, and generally those people are from the PT."
The remarks reportedly upset members of Dilma Rousseff's
presidential campaign. Rousseff, the ruling party candidate,
won the most votes, but fell short of a majority in the Oct. 3
election. A runoff election will be held on Oct. 31.
O Globo newspaper said Agnelli's position at the helm of
the world's largest producer of iron ore might be at risk if
Rousseff defeated opposition challenger Jose Serra. Brazil's
government, through pension funds and the state development
bank, has a 51 percent stake in Vale and a so-called golden
share that allows it to veto or change its leadership.
Asked if he would have to make compromises to keep his job,
he said: "I don't think so. We have a very good relationship
(with Rousseff). We never felt any pressure in the company."
"The company is not a political company. We support
democracy. The company is doing very well. The shareholders, if
they want to change, they can (make a) change," Agnelli added.
(Writing by Carole Vaporean, Steve James in New York and
Brian Ellsworth in Brazil; Editing by Alden Bentley and David