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Anglo chief plays down acquisition talk

September 14, 2011

“Cynthia Carroll, chief executive of Anglo American, has downplayed speculation that the multinational miner is on the hunt for acquisitions, saying that bid prices in the mining sector have been ‘too high’ for the company to enter the fray.

‘We are always looking at possible combinations across the sector and always evaluating whether it’s a better business case to build our own projects or look at acquisition opportunities,’ said Cynthia Carroll. But she added that ‘prices are still too high’, basing her comments on recent bids and takeovers.

In recent months, Anglo has been linked to a bid for Riversdale Mining, an Mozambique-focused coal miner that was ultimately bought by Rio Tinto for A$4bn. More recently, it considered a possible bid for Macarthur Coal, an Australian coal miner. Macarthur has since accepted a joint A$4.9bn ($5.2bn) bid from a consortium led by Peabody of the US. The bid values the Macarthur at 18 times estimated 2012 earnings.”

Source: Financial Times, September 13 2011

Observations:

  • Anglo American has not made any large acquisitions since 2008, when it bought several iron ore assets in Brazil. Of the 5 large diversified miners the company has been least active in large scale M&A over the past 10 years, as depicted below (click on image for larger version).

Implications:

  • If the acquisitions would be paid in shares, the current low share prices would hinder acquisitions (large dilution of ownership). However, with the current large operating profits acquisitions are mainly paid in cash.
  • Valuation of companies is done in various ways, based on standalone company value and additional financial and operational synergies of a change of control, all leading to different results: a ‘true value’ of a company can never be determined, as the value differs per acquirer and valuation assumptions are debatable. However, the fact that various companies are acquiring targets in Southern Africa which would have a better operational match with Anglo American (= higher synergies) implies that Anglo is more conservative in its valuation, being cautious to overpay.

©2011 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

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