Glencore settles with Gertler over Congo royalties

LONDON (Reuters) - Glencore has settled a mining row in Democratic Republic of Congo with Israeli billionaire Dan Gertler by agreeing to pay royalties in a currency other than U.S. dollars, lowering the risk of disruption to copper and cobalt supplies.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of commodities trader Glencore is pictured in front of the company's headquarters in Baar, Switzerland, July 18, 2017. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/File Photo

U.S. sanctions on Gertler, Glencore’s former Israeli partner in Congo, had triggered litigation and a legal tangle that investors said might affect supplies of cobalt, needed for electric vehicle batteries, from the world’s biggest producer of the metal.

Glencore earlier this week reached a settlement in another dispute involving its Kamoto copper and cobalt mine in Congo, although it remains at odds with the Congolese government over a mining code that increases taxes and royalties on minerals.

Gertler’s Ventora Development Sasu had been seeking $695 million in unpaid and future royalties from Glencore’s subsidiary Mutanda Mining and $2.28 billion from Glencore subsidiary Kamoto Copper Co (KCC).

Ventora accused KCC of breaching an agreement by declining to make royalty payments because Gertler was under U.S. sanctions, Glencore said in April.

The U.S. government added Gertler and affiliated companies to its sanctions list in December last year, accusing him of using his friendship with Congo President Joseph Kabila to secure sweetheart mining deals. Gertler has denied all allegations of impropriety.

Glencore said it believed payment of the royalties in a currency other than U.S. dollars to Africa Horizons Investments Limited and Ventora without the involvement of U.S. entities would address applicable sanctions obligations. It added it had discussed the matter “with the appropriate U.S. and Swiss government agencies”.

The two companies have on this basis withdrawn all pending and threatened litigation, it said.

For this year, Gertler will receive approximately 25 million euros ($28.90 million), Glencore said.

Glencore shares were trading 0.6 percent higher at 0752 GMT.

Analyst Paul Gait of Bernstein said the settlement was proof that the risk of asset seizure in Democratic Republic of Congo had been overstated.

“We are seeing that this is really a commercial discussion and that, while there are clearly a lot of moving parts, progress towards a sensible solution is possible,” he said.

Earlier this week, Glencore’s unit Katanga Mining Ltd said it agreed a recapitalization plan for copper and cobalt venture Kamoto, involving writing off $5.6 billion in debt and a one-off payment of $150 million to Congolese state mining company Gecamines.

Glencore accounts for more than a quarter of the world’s cobalt output, most of it from Congo, which itself is the source of around 60 percent of global supplies. Any disruption could push up cobalt prices which reached record highs of nearly $100,000 a ton. The metal is now trading at around $81,000 a ton.

Additional reporting by Patrick Graham in Bengaluru; Editing by Adrian Croft