Rio Tinto PLC has scrubbed plans for a sale or initial public offering of its Canadian iron-ore unit, following a yearslong effort to unload the business, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Rio Tinto

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 has been shopping around its 59% stake in Iron Ore Co. of Canada on-and-off since 2013, but hasn’t been able to find an agreeable price with potential suitors as iron-ore prices have waxed and waned.

Global miners including Rio Tinto have spent several years selling or spinning off assets in a bid to reduce debt and lift shareholder returns by focusing on only their most profitable or promising operations. Iron-ore prices this year surged to their highest value since early 2014 on concerns over a shortfall, but have since eased and are widely forecast to edge lower over the coming year.

Executives at Rio Tinto, which in Australia runs one of the world’s biggest iron-ore operations globally, had previously said they were under no pressure to offload the Canadian business. “I want to clean up the portfolio as quickly as I can but, at the same time, there will not be a fire sale,” Chief Executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques had said in 2017 of his strategy to sell assets.

The decision to tell bankers to stop working on the process for a sale or IPO for the Canadian unit was earlier reported by Bloomberg.

Iron Ore Co. of Canada produces iron-ore concentrate and pellets from mining operations and processing facilities in Newfoundland and Labrador. It also runs port facilities in Quebec.

The business is a joint venture between Rio Tinto, Mitsubishi Corp.

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 , which owns 26%, and the Labrador Iron Ore Royalty Income Corp.

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 , which owns 15%.

It recorded net earnings of $166 million for Rio Tinto in 2018, down from $235 million the year earlier. Its operations had been suspended for two months during the year amid labor negotiations.

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2019-09-29