Old hand named to take helm at Chinalco

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 February, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 February, 2009, 12:00am

The country's biggest metal producer, Aluminum Corp of China (Chinalco), has officially announced the appointment of Xiong Weiping to replace Xiao Yaqing as chairman.

Seen by industry insiders as a prudent manager, Mr Xiong, a former Chinalco executive, is vice-chairman and general manager of China Travel International Investment Hong Kong. He was appointed to the board of Chinalco this month.

Mr Xiong, who has solid academic credentials, takes charge close on the heels of Chinalco agreeing to invest US$19.5 billion in Rio Tinto Group. He has to complete the deal by persuading the Australian government to approve the investment.

Analysts said Chinalco's investment in Rio would not be affected by the change of management and the market believed Chinalco and listed vehicle Chalco's development strategy would remain unchanged.

'We can't judge the personalities of the chairmen without looking at what they did to the company,' said an industry watcher. 'But from the huge overseas acquisition deals, we can guess former chairman Xiao Yaqing was aggressively expanding Chinalco.'

Mr Xiao led Chinalco in its US$14 billion deal to buy a 9 per cent stake in Rio Tinto last year, making it the largest shareholder in the world's third-biggest mining company.

Mr Xiong, who left Chinalco in 2006, returns at a time when Chinalco is considering increasing its investment in Rio even though last year's investment has so far lost about two-thirds of its value.

'Chinalco, led by Xiao, is seen as a competitive corporation in the international market,' Mr Xiong said in a statement. 'The new management will maintain and develop the good tradition in the face of challenges brought about by the financial crisis.'

Mr Xiao, who has stepped down from the company, is assuming the role of deputy general secretary of the State Council, according to Xinhua, confirming an earlier report by the South China Morning Post that he would be promoted, like his predecessor.

Guo Shengkun, Mr Xiao's predecessor, was promoted to deputy party head and vice-chairman of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in 2004 after playing a leading role in the creation of Chinalco and the dual listing of Chalco.

In November 2007, Mr Guo was promoted to Guangxi's party head.