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Rio Tinto, BHP Argue Over Project Value

BHP's chief executive said his company's development projects are more advanced than those of takeover target Rio Tinto, the latest in an argument over which has higher value.

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) -- BHP Billiton's chief executive said Wednesday his company's development projects are more advanced than those of its takeover target Rio Tinto, the latest salvo in an argument between the mining giants over which has higher value.

BHP Billiton Ltd. Chief Executive Marius Kloppers, speaking on Sky Business News television, also said he was confident regulators would not block BHP's bid for Rio Tinto Ltd. and that he did not believe there was any prospect of a rival bid emerging.

BHP is offering 3.4 of its shares for each Rio Tinto share, in a deal worth about US$170 billion (euro109 billion).

As part of its defense against BHP's hostile takeover, Rio Tinto has outlined growth options it says will see its production grow by 8.6 percent a year to 2015, which it claims is twice the comparable rate for BHP.

For its part, BHP expects to post volume growth of about 6.9 percent a year over the next five years and Kloppers said the company has a stronger track record of growth than Rio Tinto.

''Clearly they've taken a different approach,'' Kloppers said. ''They've highlighted growth options that are not at the same level of maturity as ours.

''What you've got in our five-year forecast are things that you can touch, or you can stand on,'' he said. ''So they've got a different level of risk and a different level of certainty attached to it.''

Kloppers said there was no sign that another party could be interested in bidding for Rio Tinto and that no other party could extract as many benefits from a deal as BHP.

''We believe that our bid will be the only bid that is ever made for Rio Tinto,'' he said.

Regulatory approvals from numerous regulators across the globe loom as a challenge for the mega-deal, with steel makers in particular raising strong concerns that a combined BHP and Rio company would have too much pricing power in iron ore.

BHP has now lodged its bid for approval with competition regulators in Europe and Australia and Kloppers said he is ''very confident'' the deal will proceed.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has said it expects to announce its findings Aug. 13 while the European Union's executive arm and its antitrust regulator has set a deadline of July 4 for consideration of the deal, but is expected to extend this and launch a longer second phase of consideration.

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