Mining Week 34/’12: Lonmin labor dispute turns deadly

August 18, 2012 Comments off

Top Stories of the Week:

  • Fights between police and striking Lonmin workers results in over 40 deaths
    • Over 40 miners and several police officers were killed in clashes with the police at Lonmin’s Marikana mine in South Africa, where workers had been on strike for about a week demanding wage increases.
    • Competing trade unions trying to ‘control’ the workforce are mentioned as part of the reason the conflicts turned into strikes and violence.
    • On August 16th, in the midst of the developments around the violence in South Africa, Lonmin’s CEO was diagnosed with serious illness and is temporarily replaced by the chairman of the board.
    • Sources: Lonmin press release; Mining Weekly; Wall Street Journal
  • Anglo American finalizes acquisition of 40% stake in De Beers
    • Anglo American paid $5.1bln for the 40% stake of De Beers previously owned by the Oppenheimer family. The company now owns 85% of the major diamond producer.
    • The deal was announced announced in November of last year; diamond prices have dropped significantly since that announcement.
    • Sources: Anglo press release; Financial Times

Trends & Implications:

  • The global platinum market is facing significant oversupply, keeping prices low and pushing platinum miners into the red. Lonmin is the highest cost producer among the major producers, putting it in a position in which is can’t keep workers satisfied without pay raises while it can not raise wages without making big losses. Anglo Platinum currently controls approx. 40% of global production in mines in South Africa and Zimbabwe. Various other miners have called on Anglo to cut production to make prices rise.
  • The social and political situation in South Africa is causing most international mining companies without strong ties to the country to think twice before investing in the country: high tax rates, active and unpredictable unions, political leaders calling for mine nationalization, and the startup of a ‘national mining company’ result in a very high country risk level.

©2012 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Mining Week 33/’12: Coal, copper, iron ore profit drops

August 13, 2012 Comments off

Top Stories of the Week:

  • Harry Winston chooses between BHP’s and Rio’s diamond business
    • Harry Winston, the diamond retailer that holds a 40% stake in Rio Tinto’s Diavik mine in Northern Canada, is in talks with BHP Billiton to buy the Ekati operation, also in the north of Canada. Both Rio Tinto and BHP are trying to get out of the diamond business as they can’t realize the scale in the industry to make it a core business.
    • Titan, part of the Tata group, is rumoured to be interested in an acquisition of Harry Winston and might emerge as a competitor in the consolidation movement in the diamond business with strong financial backing.
    • Sources: Wall Street Journal; Financial Times
  • Xstrata’s profit drops on prices and volumes
    • Xstrata’s operating profit for the first half year dropped by 42%. Approx. half of the drop is attributed to lower commodity prices, the other half mainly to inflation and lower volumes.
    • An important message communicated in Xstrata’s earnings presentation is the potential of the company to continue stand-alone in case the share acquisition by Glencore (supported by Xstrata management) fails. Xstrata’s shareholders get to vote on the deal on September 7th.
    • Sources: Financial Times 1; Financial Times 1; Xstrata presentation
  • Rio Tinto profits down on lower coal and iron ore prices

Trends & Implications:

  • Xstrata is among the few companies that manages to communicate (or achieve) a unit cost reduction in its earnings presentation, probably the largest driver of positive reception of the quarterly numbers by the investment community. By breaking out the ‘uncontrollable’ inflation part the company communicates it has success in cost cutting, even though nominal costs increased year on year.
  • Most large miners are stressing the discipline of their capital investments in the latest presentations they are giving, promising only to invest if a good return can be achieved. The most prominent example of a potential cutback on capital expenditure is BHP’s announcement that it is reviewing the expansion of the outer harbour in Western Australia required to lift iron ore export capacity to the planned level. While trying hard to show the investments are responsible, the companies also try to communicate that ‘the industry fundamentals’ are still solid, mainly using the projected long-term growth of China as explanation. However, Rio Tinto’s updated demand forecast graphs are among the first that show a negative Chinese trend after 2030 (in line with the model presented on this site). Knowing that a large part of current big projects in iron ore and coal are planned to build capacity for more than 20 years these long-term prospects slowly start to make their way into investment decision-making.

©2012 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Mining M&A – Top 40 Share attractiveness ranking

August 4, 2012 Comments off

Valuations across the mining industry are coming down as a result of low commodity prices and uncertainty about the future of the global economy. Many companies are reviewing investment plans, pressured by investors to return money to shareholders if the project pipeline is short of feasible investment opportunities. Most companies in the industry will be extremely careful with large-scale M&A at this moment, but for some companies with either a lot of cash or a good position to give out more equity the reduced prices could provide opportunities to make a big acquisition. The ranking presented below presents the attractiveness of acquiring any of the Top 40 mining companies.

An acquisition of any of the world’s largest 40 miners will have to be financed to a large extent by raising additional capital from equity holders, as the acquisition price would be too high for most companies to pay cash after taking on more debt. The attractiveness of executing a share deal to acquire a company is split into the current level of share depression (historic performance) and the outlook for the share as given in analyst targets (future performance).

The share depression is represented in the chart and the ranking below by taking the ratio of current share price compared to 52-week high, normalized to the performance of BHP Billiton, the largest company in the group (i.e. share depression of BHP Billiton = 1.0). The 52-week high is used surprisingly often in acquisitions as the price paid, as it is easy to accept for many shareholders of the target company that they will receive the highest price over the past year.

The outlook for shares is given by the ratio of consensus analyst target dividend by current share price. Whatever the historic performance of a share, the outlook ratio shows the expected potential for the share. For these large mining companies the consensus target is typically formed out of at least 10 equity analyst and banker targets. An overall ranking score of share attractiveness is calculated by dividing the outlook ratio by the share depression ratio.

In this initial ranking of attractive targets, using closing share price of August 3rd 2012, the top 5 positions are claimed by ENRC, Ivanhoe, Kinross, Peabody, and Anglo American. Each of these shares has taking a significant beating over the past year. Apart from Anglo they have all dropped about twice as far from their year high share price as BHP Billiton. However, analyst targets for each of the companies are high too, each being expected to gain at least 50% of value in the relatively short term. The combination of a big drop in share price and a promising upside makes the companies attractive for potential buyers. Clearly many more factors play a role in target selection, and politics, synergy potential, and several other factors rule out quick action for most of the top targets in the ranking. However, the chart and ranking below do serve well as a quick scan to see which companies are in the ‘danger zone’ of becoming an acquisition target.


©2012 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Rio Tinto Iron Ore General Manager expects more M&A activity

July 29, 2012 Comments off

In preparation the ‘Mergers and Acquisitions in Mining’ conference October 30 and 31 in Sydney, Cody Whipperman, the General Manager of Business Development for Rio Tinto Iron ore, expressed his view that iron ore M&A will pick up as a result of lower prices and decreasing share values:

We’ve come off extremely high prices for global iron ore, driven primarily, if not exclusively, by demand from China. Inflated asset and equity vales have begun to deflate back to more reasonable levels, which should continue if the downturn persists and project financing remains difficult. The last few years have not been a great M&A environment for those seeking value. The next few years should be better and those with cash or access to financing should be able to take advantage of these opportunities and find real value. So, I think the next few years will prove to be good for value-driven M&A activity.

Mining Week 31/’12: Falling prices, falling profits

July 29, 2012 Comments off

Top Stories of the Week:

  • Vale’s profits down on lower prices
    • Vale reported profits below analyst estimates and 60% down versus the same quarter last year. The benchmark price of iron ore has dropped to $120/wmt, at part with the price floor identified by the company last quarter.
    • After the first quarter Vale reported a 45% drop in year on year profits, driven by both volumes and prices
    • Sources: Vale press release; Financial Times
  • Anglo, Teck, Gold miners down on lower prices
    • Lower commodity prices and rising costs resulted in earnings drops of 55%, 65%, and 35% for Anglo, Teck, and Barrick.
    • Anglo announced delay of its flagship development iron ore project in Brazil, Barrick announced large cost overruns for its Pascua Lama project in Argentina, and Teck recently tuned back on a large copper expansion project in Chile. They are all reviewing the balance between project investments and shareholder returns.
    • Sources: FT on Anglo; FT on Teck; WSJ on Barrick
  • Anglo pays $0.6bn for controlling stake in Mozambique coking coal project
    • In a rare move amidst cancellation of development projects across the industry Anglo made the move to buy 59% of the 1.4Bt Revuboe coal project in Mozambique. The project is a JV with Nippon and Posco and is planning to start production of 6-9Mtpa by September 2013.
    • Sources: Financial Times; Anglo press release

Trends & Implications:

  • Dropping prices + increasing costs = review of development. Most non-agricultural commodity price indices have dropped 20-40% over the past year. Where a year ago the focus of most miners was to bring new projects online as fast as possible, attention has shifted to cost containment and ‘disciplined capital investment’. The focus on building projects is stretching capacity of contractors, making capital and operating costs increase rapidly. As a result the projected returns of projects deteriorate, forcing companies to reconsider their portfolio of development plans.

©2012 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Mining Week 29/’12: Chilean peace talks

July 15, 2012 Comments off

Top Stories of the Week:

  • Anglo American and Codelco extend talks about Sur
    • Anglo American and Codelco agreed to suspend legal action in the lawsuits filed by both parties in the conflict around ownership of the Anglo Sur projects in Chile until August 24 to have more time to try to settle the dispute out of court.
    • Chilean media reported that a potential solution to the dispute might involve minority shareholder Mitsubishi to give up a small stake to enable Mitsui to build up a stake. Anglo sold 49% of the project at a high valuation after Mitsui and Codelco made agreements about a deal based on Codelco’s option to buy into the project.
    • Sources: Financial Times; Wall Street Journal; Anglo American press release
  • Agnelli heads new mining consortium in Brazil
    • Vale’s former CEO Roger Agnelli will head a new mining venture set up by investment bank BTG. Initial capital of the new venture: B&A Mineração.
    • The new company inherits a stake in a potash project in Brazil and a copper project in Chile and will look into further opportunities in Latin America and Africa.
    • Sources: Wall Street Journal; Financial Times
  • Tinkler continues with Whitehaven bid
    • Whitehaven, one of Australia’s largest coal miners with mines in Queensland, received a buyout proposal by its largest shareholder: Nathan Tinkler.
    • Tinkler already owns 21.6% of the shares and proposes to buy the rest of the shares at a 50% premium to take the company off the stock exchange. Total bid amounts to approx. A$5.2 billion.
    • Sources: Financial Times; The Australian

Trends & Implications:

  • The peace talks between Anglo, Codelco, Mitsui and Mitsubishi underline a trend of the growing importance of alliances and multilateral networks in the industry. As mining projects more and more take place in relatively unstable areas of the world an important mining projects require investments so big that it can hardly be carried by a single company, companies need to build upon the strengths and contacts of other companies and find win-win agreements with governments to successfully develop their projects.
  • B&A Mineracao is the 2nd high-profile mining startup in recent years, after Nathan Rothschild started Vallar 2 years ago. The initial success and quick issues of Vallar’s tie-up with Bumi demonstrated three important lessons for these startups that plan to be big soon: Firstly a powerful financier that can chip in multi-billion investments is needed to gain any importance; secondly a combination with existing producers is the only way in which the growth can be quick; and finally effective ownership and governance arrangements around these alliances are crucial to make the new management successful.

©2012 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Mining Week 28/’12: GlenStrata in doubt

July 7, 2012 1 comment

Top Story of the Week:

  • Xstrata vote on merger with Glencore delayed
    • The vote by Xstrata shareholders on the proposed merger between Xstrata and Glencore, originally scheduled for July 12th, has been delayed to a yet to be announced date.
    • Several large shareholders, including Qatar Holding, which holds approx. 11% of the shares, have threatened to try to vote against the deal if the exchange ratio of 2.8 shares of Glencore per Xstrata share is not sweetened. Xstrata’s shareholders have a very strong voice in the deal because Glencore can’t use its 35% of the voting rights. As a result a small group of only some 15% of the shareholders could block the deal.
    • Under pressure of shareholders the proposal of cash retention bonuses for Xstrata executives was adjusted to stock only payments. The planned retention measures were made part of the vote on the merger and threatened to become an obstacle to the approval of the deal
    • The Australian antitrust authorities approved the proposed deal last week, judging that the combination would not be big enough to distort market efficiency. European Union, Chinese, and South African regulators still have to give their judgement.
    • Sources: Xstrata press releases; Financial Times; Wall Street Journal

GlenStrata timeline

©2012 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Mining week 26/’12: Resource nationalism & slowdown worries

June 24, 2012 Comments off

Top Stories of the Week:

  • Glencore mine in Bolivia nationalized
    • Bolivia nationalizes the Colquiri zinc and tin mine, one of 5 of Glencore’s assets in the country. The government promises to give a ‘fair compensation for equipment.
    • The nationalization comes after several weeks of labor conflicts between Colquiri’s workers and Glencore’s local subsidiary
    • Sources: Wall Street Journal; Glencore press release; La Prensa Bolivia
  • Rio Tinto invests $4bln more in Pilbara region
    • Rio Tinto has decided to spend an additional $3.7bln in the Pilbara region as part of its long-term investment plan.
    • $2.0bln of the funds will be used for infrastructure enhancements to allow the company to meet its output targets. The other $1.7bln will be used to extend the life of one of the largest mines in the area.
    • Sources: Rio Tinto press release; Financial Times; Fox Business
  • Media stress commodity price uncertainty

    • The disparity between performance of global mining stocks and metal prices is triggering debate in banking world and media about the potential impact of a further slowdown of the global economy.
    • Sources: Mining Weekly; Financial Times

    Trends & Implications:

    • The uncertainty about short-term economic developments in both OECD countries and developing economies, most notably China, is causing share prices across the mining industry to lag the current performance of both metal prices. The uncertainty for short-term prospects apparently also affects the long-term outlook for the industry, making investors believe price and profit levels can’t be sustained. As a result, Price/Earnings (PE) ratios are dropping, causing market capitalization to go down despite good company performance.

    ©2012 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Mining Week 25/’12: Whitehaven buyout options; Mine 2012

June 17, 2012 Comments off

Top Stories of the Week:

  • Whitehaven rejects initial offer from largest shareholder
    • Tinkler, largest shareholder of Whitehaven with over 20% of shares, is trying to arrange financing to buy the full group. An initial approach was rejected by Whitehaven as financing of the bid was not deemed solid.
    • Whitehaven became Australia’s largest listed coal group last year after taking over Ashton. Share price dropped approx. 30% over the past 2 months, making the company an attractive buyout target
    • Sources: Wall Street Journal; Financial Times; Reuters
  • PWC launches ‘Mine 2012’
    • Consultancy PWC recently published its annual study on the key industry trends in the mining industry, focusing on the 40 largest mining companies. This year’s report is titled ‘the growing disconnect’, zooming in on the paradox between the need to build new projects to increase supply and the reluctance by shareholders to have their companies commit funds to investment.

Record historical results, high commodity prices, and a bullish outlook shared by many miners continues to underline the industry’s strong fundamentals. But investors’ reluctance to emerge and support growth plans points to a growing disconnect between the market and the mining industry.

Source: PWC

Trends & Implications:

  • PWC identifies the following key trends in their report:
    1. Increased volatility is here to stay
    2. Long-term demand fundamentals remain robust …
    3. … but supply will be the industry’s real challenge going forward
    4. Structural changes to the cost base
    5. Changing fiscal regimes and resource nationalism
    6. Capital expenditure requirements
    7. Can’t bring it on fast enough
  • The report presents the numbers around investment and use of cash for the Top 40 mining companies: $98 billion was invested in capital projects in 2011 and plan for a further $140 billion for 2012. At the same time share prices have decreased across the line. PWC argues 2011 marks the start of the growing disconnect.

©2012 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Mining Week 24/’12: Steam coal world is changing

June 11, 2012 Comments off

Top Stories of the Week:

  • Indonesian and US supply drives coal prices lower
    • A surge of exports of thermal coal (used for power generation) from Indonesia and the increasing exports from the USA caused by domestic replacement of coal demand by gas demand are driving thermal coal prices to the lowest point in 2 years.
    • Continued low sales prices are causing various coal miners to get close to financial distress. As their share prices have decreased too, analysts expect a new wave of acquisitions in the industry.
    • Sources: Financial Times; Seeking Alpha
  • Alpha closes steam coal mines in USA
    • Alpha Natural Resources, the company that recently bought Massey for $8.5bln, is reducing steam coal production and cutting approx. 150 jobs by closing 4 small mines in Kentucky and offices in 4 US cities, aiming to reduce G&A by 50-60$mln/year.
    • The company mentions low coal prices and new regulations for coal-fired power plants as the key reasons that the mines have become uneconomical and are unlikely to return to making a profit.
    • Sources: Alpha Natural Resources news release; Wall Street Journal; Reuters
  • Xstrata reveals GlenStrata organization structure

    • The organization structure revealed in the merger documentation supporting Glencore’s bid for Xstrata shows a merger of the organization with very little initial integration. The heads of marketing of the business units continue to report to Glasenberg, and the heads of the asset groups continue to report to Davis.
    • Glasenberg agreed to not using his significant share of voting power to force any changes of the or structure for the first years after the merger.
    • Sources: Xstrata – Glencore merger documentation

Trends & Implications:

  • The global changes of steam/energy coal business are mainly demand-driven. China and India are building coal-fired power stations at a high pace, increasing their share of global demand. At the same time stronger regulation in the Western world and the promise of cheap gas are suppressing the demand. As a result the coal business is getting more global, with a larger part of demand being imported from overseas.
  • The business unit focus of the GlenStrata organization reveals an inclination to try to realize the arbitrage opportunities that make up a large part of the merger’s synergy potential on a product-by-product basis. Global markets for each of the products is diverse enough to make a generic approach to geographic, product, and timing arbitrage unpractical.

©2012 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com