"WE NEED to start to do some things differently but not lose sight of what we do well."
So said new Rio Tinto chief executive Sam Walsh on Monday in a memo to as many as 68,000 employees worldwide.
Mr Walsh, whose elevation last Thursday night followed the shock "dismissignation" of former CEO Tom Albanese, told staff the anticipated $US14 billion in write-downs against its Mozambique coal assets and aluminium businesses were "very disappointing".
"We have a great company and I remain committed to making sure we address challenges and create more opportunities within our business to deliver greater value for our shareholders," he said.
"Unlocking greater value for our shareholders, and other stakeholders, will mean we need to start to do some things differently but not lose sight of what we do well.
"This is about creating greater accountability and responsibility - we must treat the company's money like it is our own and act like owners of our businesses, not managers - while retaining our focus on being the best operators in the industry with a relentless focus on safety and optimising our performance."
Mr Walsh also acknowledged Mr Albanese and former head of energy Doug Ritchie, who was also dumped last week.
Both men, Mr Walsh said, had been "colleagues of mine during my 21 years with the business and I am grateful for the experience of working closely with them throughout this time. It is difficult to do careers spanning over 25 years each justice in a few sentences, so I won't try, but I would like to wish them all the best for the future."
Despite the write-downs, to be confirmed when the company releases its 2012 earnings results on February 14, Rio shares have lifted 3.5 per cent since the announcement - closing on Wednesday at $66.45, down 44¢ - as investors welcomed the appointment of Australian-born Mr Walsh, the long-serving former iron ore chief who is considered a "safe pair of hands" and will introduce greater capital discipline.
Mr Walsh said the company had "world-class assets, outstanding people and great performance potential" and he would "work flat out to build an even stronger Rio Tinto".