The iteratively reweighting algorithm is one of the widely used algorithm to compute the M-estimates for the location and scatter parameters of a multivariate dataset. If the M estimating equations are the maximum likelihood estimating equations from some scale mixture of normal distributions (e.g. from a multivariate t-distribution), the iteratively reweighting algorithm is identified as an EM algorithm and the convergence behavior of which is well established. However, as Tyler (J. Roy. Statist. Soc. Ser. B 59 (1997) 550) pointed out, little is known about the theoretical convergence properties of the iteratively reweighting algorithms if it cannot be identified as an EM algorithm. In this paper, we consider the convergence behavior of the iteratively reweighting algorithm induced from the M estimating equations which cannot be identified as an EM algorithm. We give some general results on the convergence properties and, we show that convergence behavior of a general iteratively reweighting algorithm induced from the M estimating equations is similar to the convergence behavior of an EM algorithm even if it cannot be identified as an EM algorithm. (C) 2002 Elsevier B.V.. All rights reserved.