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Mining Week 47/’12: BHP sells diamonds; Anglo pays for iron ore

November 18, 2012 Comments off

Top Stories of the Week:

  • Harry Winston buys BHP’s diamond business for $500m
    • Diamond retailer Harry Winston has decided to buy BHP Billiton’s diamond business for $500m cash. The business consists of 80% of the EKATI diamond mine in Northern Canada and sorting and marketing units.
    • Both BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto put their diamond businesses up for sale this year. Rio Tinto might be reconsidering that decision as it couldn’t secure a good price for its Diavik mine and its Indian holdings have come back with good exploration results.
    • Sources: BHP Billiton press release; Harry Winston press release; Financial Times
  • Anglo’s Minas Rio iron ore project delayed and more expensive
    • Anglo American announced that Minas Rio, its 26.5Mtpa iron ore project in Brazil, will not start producing before the second half of 2014. The delay is caused by license issues around construction of power transmission lines.
    • Anglo also announced that the total capital cost for the project is “unlikely to be less that $8.0bn”, making this the first major iron ore project which costs more than $300 per millions tonnes capacity.
    • Sources: Anglo American press release; Reuters; mining.com
  • Qatar’s support appears to seal GlenStrata deal
    • The Qatar Sovereign wealth fund has announced it will support Glencore’s offer of 3.2 shares per share for Xstrata, making it very likely that the largest mining deal of the past years will become reality. Xstrata’s shareholders get to vote on Tuesday.
    • Qatar, Xstrata’s 2nd largest shareholder after Glencore, also announced it will abstain from voting on the retention incentive package for Xstrata top management, making it very likely that this >$200m retention package will not become reality.
    • Sources: Qatar holding; Financial Times 1; Financial Times 2

Trends & Implications:

  • Anglo’s issues in Brazil demonstrate the enormous importance of getting power issues for large projects sorted out early. Last month Rio Tinto’s enormous Oyu Tolgoi project in Mongolia was only hinging on a power supply agreement with the Mongolian and Chinese governments. Many projects in developing countries either need to secure power supply from other countries or have to build their own power plants, forcing them to go through tremendous licensing issues and import natural resources to get their operations powered up.
  • When the Xstrata retention package is voted down, a big group of top-level executives at Xstrata can be expected to start looking for new jobs quickly, opening up a great pool of talent for other companies. The corporate cultures at Xstrata and Glencore are so different that many miners will have to adjust to the more aggressive, top-down culture of the trading house. Many of the top managers will prefer to find a good job in another mining house instead.

2012 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

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Mining Week 39/’12: Fortescue moves on; GlenStrata almost there

September 22, 2012 Comments off

Top Stories of the Week:

  • Xstrata’s board votes October 1st on Glencore offer
    • The decision by Xstrata’s board on whether or not to endorse Glencore’s new bid for the company is delayed by a week to October 1st. The endorsement might help to convince a majority of shareholders to accept the offer for 3.05 shares of Glencore per share of Xstrata.
    • The debate around generous retention packages for Xstrata’s key managers started again as several large shareholders voiced their discontent. Glencore stressed nothing will change to those packages unless Xstrata’s board wants to adjust them. Finding a compromise to satisfy the key shareholders might be the final step for the board to make the deal happen.
    • Sources: Wall Street Journal; Financial Times 1; Financial Times 2
  • Fortescue solves debt problems by refinancing $4.5b debt
    • Fortescue announced refinancing of $4.5bn debt with Credit Suisse and JP Morgan as underwriters. Debt maturity of the new deal is 5 years. The company was facing liquidity problems as low iron ore prices and aggressive investment schedules were undermining its ability to repay debt.
    • Sources: Wall Street Journal; Fortescue announcement

    Fortescue’s debt profile prior to refinancing

  • Oyu Tolgoi waiting for power
    • Rio Tinto’s Oyu Tolgoi mine is 97% complete, but negotiations with Mongolian and Chinese governments on power supply delay startup. Oyu Tolgoi built 220Kvolt power line to connect to the Chinese grid, but can’t sign a offtake agreement without consent of the Mongolian government
    • Sources: Financial Times; The Australian; Project website

Trends & Implications:

  • Oyu Tolgoi’s trouble to get powered is just one example of the challenges many large operations face to secure affordable power supply. The power requirements of a large operation require a significant change and development of power grids of many developing nations. Generation capacity is typically not readily available and the large offtake trigger discussions about long term price agreements.
  • After meeting with Glencore’s board this week, Xstrata’s board appears to be working hard to make the merger/acquisition go ahead. It is hard to imagine another outcome in which Xstrata’s shareholders get more value for their company, making it likely they will accept the offer. If the deal is approved by Xstrata’s shareholders, the changes in holdings various large investors will likely make will give an interesting insight into the clientele effect the integration of a mining house and a commodity trader could have.

2012 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Freeport confident of copper boom

July 25, 2011 Comments off

“Freeport McMoran, the world’s biggest publicly traded copper producer, has predicted strong markets that could push its cash flow as high as $9bn this year compared with $6.3bn in 2010. The financial strength of Freeport, which declared a special dividend last year to clear excess cash, reflected even higher demand for copper and gold this year than last.

Richard Adkerson, Freeport’s chief executive, said destocking of copper inventories in China was helping to support the copper price. He noted China’s efforts to cool the economy but said: ‘There is a tremendous amount of spending on infrastructure and housing. China has the financial resources to continue to invest in the face of global economic conditions.’”

Source: Financial Times, July 21 2011

Observations:

  • Freeport says it is spending money as aggressively as possible to expand (planning to spend $2.6bln on capex this year), but still this year’s gold production is forecasted to be lower than last year’s output while copper output is increasing marginally.
  • Mr. Adkerson mentions rising input costs, caused by high demand, as the key issue the industry will face over the coming years.

Implications:

  • The industry is facing rising input costs for fuel, power, labour & equipment while average grades of many flagship operations are falling. As a result both mining and processing costs per unit of product increase rapidly, supporting high commodity prices.
  • Mining contractors and equipment manufacturers are faring well as mining companies face resource shortages (Caterpillar announced a 44% increase in profits this week). Miners are forced to pay high prices and book equipment and contracted services months in advance because of global shortages.

©2011 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Norsk Hydro buys Vale assets

“Norsk Hydro has agreed to buy the aluminium assets of Vale, the Brazilian metals and mining group, in a $4.9bn deal that will secure the Norwegian company’s raw material supplies for decades. The move will give Norsk Hydro control of Paragominas, the world’s third-biggest bauxite mine, as well as Vale’s alumina refining and aluminium production facilities in Brazil.
Norsk Hydro, Europe’s third largest aluminium maker, said the deal would boost its competitiveness by providing a long-term supply of high-quality, cost-efficient raw materials. The Oslo-based company, 43.8 per cent owned by the Norwegian government, will pay Vale $1.1bn in cash, with the remainder in new Norsk Hydro shares and $700m of assumed net debt.”

Source: Financial Times, May 3 2010

Observations:

  • Norsky Hydro ensures access to large resources of bauxite, thus reducing the risk of price volatility between miners and processers.
  • Vale’s cash position has improved after the combination of this transaction ($600 million cash now + $200 million in 2013 and $200 million in 2015) and last week’s acquisition of the Simandou assets, for which it had to pay only $500 million immediately.
  • Vale gives as a rational that “its participation in the primary aluminum metal industry is small, and has no growth potential due to the lack of access to low-cost sources of power generation, as energy is a key factor for the competitiveness in this business. “ (Source: Vale press release, May 2 2010).

Implications:

  • Vale transfers the risk of electricity costs (and potential associated carbon emission costs) to Norsk Hydro.
  • Vale appears to be focusing more on the iron and steel market. However, in order to reduce dependency on the iron ore price targeted acquisitions of companies with good resources of zinc, chromium & nickel or precious metals (given the current operating margins) are likely.
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