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Glencore has more headroom to grow, CEO says

Glencore Plc will continue to act opportunistically on the acquisition front despite paying a bumper dividend of US$2.9 billion, CEO Ivan Glasenberg said during the miner's 2017 earnings call.

"We are generating US$10 billion of free cash flow on current commodity prices. There is headroom if and when we want to do acquisitions," Glasenberg said.

However, he said Glencore will not pursue opportunities for growth's sake but only when they make economic sense.

One area where the miner would like to grow is the agricultural business, particularly in the U.S.

"The idea is to grow that business, and we continue to look at opportunities," Glasenberg said. "The agricultural business is in a poor state, it does need consolidation. We would like to be part of that consolidation, but we wait for opportunities if and when they arise."

Glencore will also take a conservative approach in bringing on brownfield projects even though Glasenberg said the company had good projects in the pipeline.

"We will not bring brownfield projects on unless [there is limited supply]. We don't want to be the one bringing on capacity and push down markets," the CEO said.

In particular, in commodities such as cobalt, copper and zinc, he considered Glencore well-positioned amid limited supply. "I don't think the industry has massive brownfield opportunities," he added.

Meanwhile, Glasenberg joined the growing number of industry executives not ruling out court action if the proposed new mining code in the Democratic Republic of the Congo hurts existing deals.

"We do have agreements in place, and if the new mining code changes the existing agreements, there is an opportunity to go to court," he said. "Hopefully, we will not have to do that and find a resolution."

The company operates the Katanga copper-cobalt mine in the country in a joint venture with state-owned Gecamines SA.

Gecamines Chairman Albert Yuma has been at the center of an aggressive campaign for tax hikes as part of the new mining code, accusing foreign partners of having "cheated and stolen" from the country's mineral wealth.

"We are talking to them," Glasenberg said. "Let's see where that gets to."