* Chris Lynch takes over as CFO in April
* Lynch was CFO at BHP until 2007, Alcoa veteran
* Elliott retires after over 32 years at the company
By Sonali Paul
MELBOURNE, Feb 28 Rio Tinto rounded out
its management team under new chief executive Sam Walsh, naming
former BHP Billiton finance head, Chris Lynch, as its chief
financial officer as it looks to slash costs in the face of
weaker commodity prices.
The appointment is the latest in a round of changes at the
world's mega miners in the wake of a mining boom that bred
overpriced acquisitions and cost blowouts, and ended in
multi-billion dollar writedowns and a new era of austerity.
Lynch, 59, will replace the well-respected Guy Elliott, who
flagged his retirement last year after more than 32 years at the
world's No. 3 miner.
Lynch left BHP after being overlooked for the top job in
2007 and was chief executive of Australian toll road operator
Transurban Group from 2008 to 2012, during which time
he joined the board of Rio Tinto.
He led BHP's carbon steel materials division before becoming
CFO at the top global miner and was at aluminium giant Alcoa
before that, key background for Rio Tinto which is still
suffering the consequences of its ill-timed $38 billion takeover
of Alcoa's rival, Alcan, in 2007.
"It's a good appointment. He certainly has some experience
that will be of use," said Tim Barker, a portfolio manager at BT
Investment Management, which owns shares in BHP.
Lynch, who will take over in April, comes into the finance
role as Rio focuses on cutting $5 billion in costs and reining
in mega projects to improve shareholder returns.
"Chris Lynch is an extremely high-calibre addition to our
executive team with a strong pedigree of board, mining and
financial experience," Walsh, said in a statement.
Elliott, who has been Rio's CFO since 2002, managed to
retire gracefully in stark contrast to former chief executive
Tom Albanese, who was sacked last month for two misjudged
acquisitions that resulted in massive writedowns.
Rio has written down more than $20 billion on its $38
billion top-of-the-market takeover of Alcan in 2007, just before
the global financial crisis, and written down three-quarters of
its $4.2 billion acquisition of Riversdale Mining in 2012.
Elliott, who is also a non-executive director at Royal Dutch
Shell, gave up his bonus last year due to the Alcan
Media reports have suggested that Elliott escaped relatively
unscathed as he had not been in favour of the debt-funded Alcan
deal and also opposed Rio's controversial plan to shore up its
balance sheet in 2009 through an $18.5 billion deal that would
have given Chinese state-owned Chinalco stakes in key assets.
That deal was scrapped in favour of a tie-up with BHP
Billiton's iron ore business, which also never
Rio shares rose 1.6 percent to A$67.05 before the
announcement, slightly ahead of the broader market.