Rio's rocky relationship with China and the 4-foot jade horse that's helping to fix it

Rio Tinto (LON: RIO) is the number two supplier of iron ore to China behind Brazil's Vale and the commodity is responsible for the bulk of the Anglo-Australian giant's profits.

China completely dominates the over 1 billion tonne seaborne iron ore trade and for Rio to be restricted from doing business in the world's second largest economy could have had devastating consequences for the company.

But in 2009, Rio came close to just such a business disaster and Bloomberg in a fascinating read today takes a look at the steps taken by the company since then:

After weathering the collapse of a $19.5 billion deal in 2009 and the arrest of four executives, Rio Tinto Group (RIO) did what you do in China to court better fortune: It bought a jade horse.

Standing at 1.2 meters, or almost four feet, the statue cut from the gemstone has a prime view of Shanghai from the company’s office on the 40th floor of the Wheelock Square building. It’s meant to help avoid any repeat of the rocky relationship the world’s second-biggest mining company has had with China, its largest customer and shareholder.

“When we designed this office, we asked a feng shui master to give us some guidance” and he said it was very important to have a jade horse in a pool of water, London-based Rio’s China managing director Ian Bauert, said in an interview, “So the good Qi comes in, the good spirit comes in to recirculate and makes us a prosperous and happy company in China.”

Continue reading at Bloomberg News >>