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Su takes BHP Billiton to court for creating a ‘false and misleading’ iron ore market

Nobu Su, the embattled Taiwanese tycoon, is determined to take on some of the biggest names in the corporate world. Fresh from taking former Royal Bank of Scotland employees for fraud, he’s now after miner BHP Billiton, accusing the world’s largest diversified miner of manipulating iron ore prices for capesize vessels from time to time in the years following the financial crisis.

The claim, which was filed in Singapore, suggests BHP Billiton’s very strong position on Australia-China trades effectively prevents fair competition from being maintained on this route.

Freight prices for the C5 route rose drastically within a short time span in October 2012, causing the corresponding rise in the prices of iron ore.

Su, via his firm TMT Asia, argues that BHP allegedly abused its position to reap illegitimate profit by manipulating the prices of freight in the relevant capesize routes to rise to an artificially high rate, before forcing them down again. As a result of this manipulation, TMT Asia suffered significant losses.

The 22-page claim identifies what is described in a release as “strange patterns” during long National Day holidays in China when the markets were shut.

Su commented: “I have been monitoring the price of iron ore for many years and it is clear that multinational mining companies have painted a false and misleading appearance of the iron ore market. In both the physical and derivatives markets, there are special rules favouring the big players. The world shipping and steel industries are presently facing the worst crisis in their history so it has never been more important for prices to be a true and transparent reflection of the supply-demand mechanism.”

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Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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