Rio Tinto (RIO) Group, the world's third- largest mining company, declined to confirm or deny a report it may have hired Morgan Stanley to help defend against possible unsolicited takeover bids.
London-based Rio Tinto may have appointed the bank, the Sunday Telegraph in London said yesterday without saying where it got the information.
``We don't comment on rumors or speculation,'' said Ian Head, a Melbourne-based spokesman, for Rio Tinto. Hugh Fraser, a Sydney-based spokesman for Morgan Stanley in Australia, wasn't immediately able to comment.
Shares of Rio rose to a record last week on speculation it rejected a takeover bid from rival BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP), the world's largest mining company. Rio on May 9 said it didn't receive an approach from Melbourne-based BHP or other companies.
Rio's Head also declined to comment on a report in the same newspaper that Rio may be considering a bid for aluminum producer Alcan Inc., which is subject of a $26.9 billion takeover offer from rival Alcoa Inc.
BHP, Brazil's Cia. Vale do Rio Doce and OAO Russian Aluminum could also be possible buyers, the Sunday Telegraph said, citing industry executives.
BHP spokeswoman Emma Meade declined to comment.
A five-year rally in metal prices has sparked 473 deals or bids in the industry this year, valued at $55.4 billion, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Analysts have speculated this month on potential takeover bids in the mining industry. Merrill Lynch & Co. said May 3 that BHP may be an attractive takeover target for private equity companies. Citigroup Inc. said May 4 that BHP could afford a bid for Rio Tinto.
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