Don Lindsay, Teck Cominco, 2004 revenues: $3.4 billion, Rank: 7 in TOP 100.
WHAT WENT WELL IN 2004? It was a record year in terms of earnings and cash flow and by the end of the year we were in a debt-free position. Most of the profitability came from copper and olybdenum (a hardening agent used to make steel). People mostly think we are very strong in zinc and coal – and we are No. 1 in the world in zinc – but we’re also committed to becoming a diversified metals and mining company and that’s working out well. Diversification means you cut out the deep bottoms of the cycle – banks like it, rating agencies like it and equity markets like it. 2005 looks like it will be a copper/coal year, 2006 promises to be coal/zinc. Underneath all of this is our specialty-metals production in Trail. One product, used to coat flat screens, has seen its price go from US$70 to US$1,000 a kilogram, so that’s a nice little business. SOUNDS LIKE BOOM TIMES. We’re in the fortunate position where all cylinders are firing and the company is in reat shape. We’re sitting on well over a billion in cash, two of our new mines will be finished soon and we’re looking for acquisitions. The first thing is always to make sure our current core businesses have solid reserves: zinc, coal and copper. WHAT DO YOU SEE FOR THE REST OF 2005 AND BEYOND? The market bottomed in 2002 and has been excelling in 2003 and 2004, based on demand in China and that long-term trend is still in place. But it will be volatile, there will be a six-month breather from time to time but growth will continue. In China, copper consumption was 12 per cent of global copper consumption in 2000 – now it’s 20 per cent. They want the same standard of living as we have and they’re willing to work for it. WHAT’S YOUR PRIORITY NOW? We have such strong financial resources, our shareholders want us to put that money to work – our free cash flow is substantial and we’re going to end up with too much cash on our balance sheet. That’s viewed as inefficient and the market will reflect that. We must find three to five low-cost long-life ore bodies to sustain the company, that’s our mission. WHAT WAS YOUR BIGGEST SURPRISE IN 2004? Being appointed CEO of Teck Cominco! Before this, I was president of CIBC World Markets, head of the Asia Pacific Region for CIBC, and I ran the global mining group of CIBC for 15 years. I started my career in mining and I am a mining engineer, but have been in banking for 20 years. The offer to be CEO here was too good to be true. FOR A BANKER, IS IT INTIMIDATING TO ASSUME THE REINS OF A MINING COMPANY WHEN IT’S FLYING HIGH? Oh yeah, absolutely. Everything is going so well, so that’s an issue. There is the fear that you might mess it up. When people ask me if I have a new vision for the company, I say if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. RELATED STORIES Top One Hundred Overview-2005 Bruce Aitki, Methanex Russ Horner, Norske Canada Bob Bailey, PMC Sierra