BHP Billiton exits titanium industry by selling stake in Richards Bay Minerals to Rio Tinto

BHP Billiton Limited (ASX:BHP) said Wednesday that it is selling its 37% non-operated interest in South African mineral sands venture Richards Bay Minerals to partner Rio Tinto PLC (LON:RIO). With this move, BHP is officially leaving the titanium minerals industry.

"BHP Billiton's position in RBM is a non-operated shareholding in an industry in which it holds no other interests," said Xolani Mkhwanazi, chairman of BHP Billiton southern Africa.

Today’s deal will see Rio’s interest in RBM double to 74% while Black South African investors own a 24% stake and employees the remaining 2%.

In November, the world’s largest miner launched a review of its diamond operations with an eye to selling assets including Canada’s oldest diamond mine, which analysts say is worth at least US$1.8 billion.

BHP and Rio as part of a restructuring of RBM in 2009 agreed a put option that would allow BHP to sell its interest to Rio. Completion of the sale is conditional on regulatory approvals, and the final consideration for the stake will be determined according to an agreed valuation process, the miner said.

Mkhwanazi said the company would continue operating its southern African energy coal, aluminum and manganese businesses.