Investors Want Rio Tinto To Conserve Cash

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Rio Tinto, the world's second-largest iron ore maker, is expected to report a full-year profit of $14 billion on Thursday when it delivers fourth-quarter and full-year results, a number that will surely be helped by rising commodities prices, but investors are clamoring for the company to return some of that cash to shareholders.

Rio Tinto (RIO), the world's third-largest mining company, has slashed its debt to $8 billion at the end of last year from $40 billion during the height of the financial crisis and investors want to see that prudence continued to be exercised with Rio taking a pass on failed mega deals that have confounded the world's mining giants in recent years.

Rio and rival BHP Billiton (BHP), the world's largest mining company, are under pressure from investors to return surplus funds to shareholders via buybacks and special dividends, rather than be tempted to pursue big acquisitions, according to the Guardian, a London newspaper.

BHP investors also want that company to temper its penchant for big deals after a spate of failed acquisition attempts over the past several years. Rio is currently in talks to acquire Australian coal miner Riversdale for $3 billion.