Reuters produced this story out of Moscow last week trumpeting the fact that Russian gas giant Gazprom, which is still chaired by new Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, had overtaken China Mobile to become the world’s third biggest company in terms of market capitalisation.

The top four listed by Reuters were as follows:

1. Exxon: $US476 billion

2. Petrochina: $US447 billion

3. Gazprom: $US348 billion

4. China Mobile: $US341 billion

However, yesterday’s China-driven surge in the share prices of BHP-Billiton and Rio Tinto means that if a Melbourne-based mega-miner was created, it would be getting very close to being the world’s most valuable company.

BHP has 5.612 billion shares on issue so even after this morning’s slight 64c dip to $47.92, it is worth $268.9 billion – more than our big five banks combined.

Rio Tinto shares have been doing equally well and with 1.453 billion shares on issue, the company is capitalised at $221.6 billion after a $1.45 rise to a new record of $152.55 in morning trade.

That’s a grand total of $490.5 billion, which in US dollar terms would place BHP-Rio second at $US457 billion based on one Aussie dollar buying US93.26c as at 11am this morning.

Exxon shares rose 23c to $US89.91 overnight giving it a market cap of $US475 billion, so a combined BHP-Rio is only 2% off cracking the magical $A500 billion mark and 3.94% away from being the world’s most valuable company.

Whilst the Chinese are concerned about creating an iron-ore behemoth and European regulators are considered quite likely to block the merger, the attraction of the world’s biggest company being run out of Melbourne is pretty alluring, even if the Chinese Government would be the largest shareholder.

India’s emerging status is measured by the fact it has produced four of the world’s 10 richest multi-billionaires, China is recognised for its record $US1.8 trillion of foreign reserves, so wouldn’t it be great if the world’s most valuable company was Australian.

It sure beats at top six finish at the Olympics and winning cricket’s World Cup, but it also would be nice if the board, management and ownership of a combined BHP-Rio business reflected the fact that a majority of the value is from owning and developing Australia’s enormous resources dowry.

Kevin Rudd’s great mate Sir Rod Eddington, a director of Rio, would be an ideal Melbourne-based chairman of the behemoth, given that incumbent BHP boss Don Argus is past his retirement date.

Check out this recent debate about Chinese investment and the battle for Rio on Sky’s Business View program.

Peter Fray

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