Bounce in Glencore's commodity prices could kick-start dormant deal machine
* Glencore's deals track record a mixed bag
* 13 analysts have buy rating on stock vs five sell
* Share buyback more likely than big acquisition this year
* But copper bounce versus iron ore drop will fund more buys
By Silvia Antonioli
LONDON, March 24 (Reuters) - Just two weeks before Glencore can make a new approach for Rio Tinto, the rival that rejected it last summer, the Swiss firm once seen as a deal machine seems unlikely to strike again or charm investors with any other major move soon.
The trading and mining company's shares were hit by a slump in copper prices this year, and its debt is high, diminishing its dealmaking ability and focusing attention instead on the quality of assets that it bought in previous spending sprees.
Glencore's portfolio includes some high costs and problematic assets. While Rio Tinto and BHP have the largest, lowest cost iron ore assets in the world in Australia, Glencore relies for a big chunk of earnings on operations in risky countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo.
It's also struggling with some oil and mining assets, having bought Chad-focused oil business Caracal ahead of a collapse in oil prices and being forced to post a $8 billion writedown on mining assets acquired in its record breaking $46 billion buy of Xstrata in 2013 - the largest ever mining acquisition. Continued...