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Australian analysts douse rumors BHP Billiton chasing Alcoa

Fresh rumors that BHP Billiton Ltd. was preparing a takeover bid for either aluminum producer Alcoa or its rival Alcan had little impact on Australia's stock market Tuesday, as some analysts doused the idea with cold water.

BHP Billiton, the world's largest mining company, declined to comment on media reports citing unnamed sources that it was reviving plans for a US$40 billion (euro29.8 billion) offer for Alcoa, and that it had hired investment bank Merrill Lynch to advise it on a possible bid for Alcan.

"We never comment on those sorts of market rumors," said Samantha Evans, a BHP spokeswoman at the company's base in Melbourne, on Tuesday.

BHP shares dipped in early trade, then rose 0.69 percent to A$34.92 (US$24.95; euro18.61) on the news.

Gavin Wendt of market analysts Fat Prophets said neither of the Anglo-Australian mining giants were likely to bid for Alcoa, and any bid for Alcan would face trouble.

Alcoa "is too big and it has too many downstream assets which neither BHP or Rio are interested in," Wendt said. U.S.-based Alcoa Inc. is the world's second-biggest aluminum producer and Alcan Inc. is its Canadian rival.

Alcan is looking for help to fend off Alcoa's US$27.4 billion (euro20.44 billion) hostile bid, but BHP was unlikely to be a white knight because it would not be able to extract the same value from a takeover as Alcoa could.

"Any bid that BHP could mount, Alcoa could top because there would be greater benefits flowing to them from a tie up," Wendt said.

Southern Cross Equities director Angus Aitken dismissed reports of a BHP Billiton takeover bid for either company as "rubbish." There is no chance of a deal because BHP Billiton has no interest in the aluminum companies' downstream assets, Aitken said.

The world's largest aluminum producer is United Company Rusal, created in March in a three-way merger among Russian aluminum companies Rusal and Sual and the aluminum assets of Swiss-based commodities trader Glencore.

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