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Copper wars: Equinox, Lundin & Inmet

March 1, 2011

“African-focused copper miner Equinox Minerals (EQN.TO) offered C$4.8 billion ($4.9 billion) to buy Canada’s Lundin Mining (LUN.TO) in an unsolicited bid that threatens to scuttle Lundin’s rival C$9 billion tie-up with Inmet Mining. The cash and shares bid could kick off a bidding war for the base metal miner as near record copper prices and expected supply shortages spurs another round of consolidation in the global resources sector, analysts said.

The proposed bid comes just over a month after Lundin and Inmet Mining Corp (IMN.TO), a copper miner with operations in Spain, Turkey and Finland, agreed to combine and create a new Canadian copper mining major called Symterra, worth about C$9 billion ($9.2 billion).”

Source: Reuters, February 28 2011

Observations:

  • Equinox offers a combination of cash and shares, worth C$8.10 per share of Lundin; a 26% premium over current share price. This is more or less the price to which Lundin’s shares increased after the January 12 announcement of the merger with Inmet, but Lundin’s share price has dropped over 20% in the past 5 weeks.
  • The proposed deal between Lundin and Inmet to form Symterra is a ‘friendly’ merger, in which the boards advise the shareholders to vote for the exchange of shares in a shareholder meeting (planned for March 14th). Equinox’ offer is a ‘hostile’ takeover: an official procedure in which an offer is made for all outstanding shares, for which no board approval or shareholder approval from the target is required.

Implications:

  • Equinox’ board presents the deal as clearly superior to the Symterra merger plan, using the short term growth perspective as key argument. The value driver for the Symterra deal would be the development of Inmet’s Cobre Panama project, for which it required the spending power of Lundin. The recommendation of Lundin’s board to the shareholders will be crucial for the outcome of the battle.
  • A combination of forces of the 3 companies should not be ruled out, as it would maximize the synergies between the firms. This would create a player with copper output similar to Rio Tinto’s copper production. Clearly combining 3 companies would not only face integration obstacles, but would also depend heavily on the ability of the management teams to cooperate.
  • Potential rival bidders for Lundin (and/or Equinox and Inmet) include BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, Freeport-McMoran, Teck, First Quantum, and Chinese players. Vale communicated that acquisitions of this size would not be likely, though it would help the company to diversify. With the battle for ownership opened it would be surprising if more than one company out of the group of Lundin, Equinox and Inmet survives this year stand-alone.

©2011 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

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