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Posts Tagged ‘Zambia’

Mining Week 01/’12: New year – Same fear

January 7, 2012 Comments off

Top Stories of the Week:

  • Alcoa cuts aluminium production in fear of lower demand
    • Alcoa announced shutdown of 532,000 tonnes of smelting capacity at the top of the cost curve to lower production costs and improve competitiveness. The 12% reduction of capacity mainly hits operations in the USA.
    • Sources: Financial Times; Wall Street Journal; Alcoa news release
  • Potashcorp temporarily closes a third mine because of low demand
    • After recently temporarily closing down Lanigan and Rocanville mines, PotashCorp now decided to temporarily close Allan mine to because of lack of demand for fertilizer. The combined shutdown of the three mines results in approx. 1 million tonnes of potash, or some 10% of the company’s annual production.
    • Sources: Wall Street Journal; PotashCorp Q4 market analysis report; text
  • Unions in Canada and Zambia make their case for wage increases
    • A union representing copper mine workers in Zambia signaled the foreign miners will have to agree to higher salary increases than the average offer of 11% to prevent widespread strikes. At the same time Rio Tinto Alcan and Caterpillar are taking a strong position against unions in Canada by locking out union workers after expiry of the negotiation periods.
    • Sources: Wall Street Journal on Zambia; Wall Street Journal on Canada

Trends & Implications:

    The mining industry for the last 2 years has been and continues to be gripped by 2 paradoxical fears:

  • The fear for slowing demand due to the lack of recovery after the financial crisis – With the financial crisis over 4 years old already the typical macro-economic cycle of 6-9 years has clearly been disrupted. Governments and companies are still operating in ‘crisis fighting’-mode because demand does not pick up like after a regular economic downturn. Large investments are still undertaken because the belief in the long term demand driven by population growth and growth of average GDP/capita is unchanged, but at the same time companies are trying to manage short term lack of demand by scaling down or temporarily closing operations.
  • The fear for strikes and civil unrest resulting from struggling individuals facing mining companies that continue to realize high profits – Despite the financial volatility the commodity prices generally have remained high, making mining companies among the few companies in the world that continue to generate high profits. With people around the world facing the economic crisis and feeling its impact, friction develops between the rich companies and the less well off workers and neighbours.

©2012 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

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Zambia suspends permits to export metals

October 7, 2011 Comments off

“Zambia’s new government has suspended metal export permits as it prepares new guidelines for the sector of Africa’s biggest copper producer. The decision followed concerns that copper exporters had not been paying their full duties to the state and is seen as an attempt to improve transparency in the industry. But it is also the latest in a number of sweeping measures by President Michael Sata’s administration, including the threat of higher mining taxes, as he looks to stamp his mark on the country after winning September 20 elections.

Frederick Bantubonse, general manager at Zambia’s Chamber of Mines, the industry body, said he was ‘terribly worried’ by the suspension. ‘At the current copper production level, you are talking over 2,000 tons of copper per day … you have contracts with exporters, you have contracts with the transporters,’ he said. However, an official at the Ministry of Mines and Minerals Development said the guidelines were merely following a presidential directive that all exports need to be cleared by the central bank.”

Source: Wall Street Journal, June 3 2011

Observations:

  • Zambia’s new president promised to strengthen control over the country’s mining sector, responding to unrest in the country about the actions of foreign mining companies.
  • Zambia accounts for approx. 5% of global copper production with a significant potential to grow. First Quantum’s Kansanshi copper mine is among the world’s top 20 in terms of output. Only one-tenth of the tax revenue comes from copper, though three-quarters of export earnings are from copper.

Implications:

  • Resource nationalism is a key issue in the mining business this year, driven by high commodity prices and economic uncertainty. Just this week the news featured Vale’s potential agreement with the Guinean government about Simandou ownership and the request and withdrawal of the same request of Mongolia’s government to review the ownership of Oyu Tolgoi, developed by Rio Tinto.
  • The concerns of the chamber of mines about contractual obligations with exporters and transporters are not very fundamental. All the parties in the mining value chain benefit from high copper production, making it easy to find a modus operandi while the uncertainty lasts. However, the industry in Zambia will have to prepare itself for negotiations about higher taxes as the new government will try to gain popular support by transferring more of the profits from the country’s natural resources to the people.

©2011 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Zambia’s new president worries miners

September 26, 2011 Comments off

“Mining companies are waiting anxiously as Michael Sata, Zambia’s new president, settles into office, wary that the former opposition leader may put past threats against foreign investors into practice now that he has been elected. Rupiah Banda, the incumbent president’s gracious acceptance of defeat in last week’s vote paves the way for a democratic transition, still something of a rarity in Africa.

But it has also triggered unease among investors in Africa’s biggest copper producer. Any mining policy changes would affect a host of international companies – including Glencore, First Quantum, Barrick Gold and Vale – which were expected to invest billions of dollars in the sector over the next five years. The jitters are caused partly because Mr Sata, 74, and his Patriotic Front are relatively unknown quantities. Mr Sata has gained a reputation for populist attacks against investors and complaints that Zambia’s resource wealth has not been adequately distributed.”

Source: Financial Times, September 25 2011

Observations:

  • Some of the largest mining operations and prospects in Zambia are Barrick/Equinox’ Lumwana copper projects; Metorex Chibulama copper mine; Vale’s Konkola north copper project; CNMM Muliashi copper mine; and Collum coal mine.
  • Tensions against foreign, and especially Chinese, ownership of mines rose after two Chinese mine managers allegedly shot a group of protesting miners at Collum coal mine last year.

Implications:

  • It is likely that the new government will try to increase taxes to make the state benefit more from high copper prices. Additionally regulation of working conditions might be strengthened, as much of the unrest in the country’s sector was driven by dissatisfaction about labor rights.

©2011 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Vale drops $1.1bn bid to purchase Metorex

July 15, 2011 Comments off

“Brazil’s Vale has dropped its $1.1bn offer for Metorex, a central African copper and cobalt miner, clearing the way for China’s Jinchuan Group to complete a $1.4bn takeover that would establish the state-owned miner in risky frontier markets for metals.

The move came a week after Jinchuan, one of China’s largest mining companies, disrupted its Brazilian rival’s plans by offering R8.90 per share for Metorex. Metorex, however, has not yet recommended Jinchuan’s higher offer to shareholders. Its board will “convene shortly to consider its position with respect to the Vale offer and the Jinchuan offer”, the South Africa-based miner said.

‘Africa is a key focus for our company,’ a Jinchuan executive told the Financial Times. He said it aimed to expand production of copper and cobalt, two industrial metals with rising demand being driven by Chinese consumption.”

Source: Financial Times, July 11 2011

Observations:

  • Metorex is a South African copper and cobalt miner with operations in Zambia and Congo. The company’s board has recommended the shareholders to accept Jinchuan’s offer, paving the way for the takeover of the company. Vale withdrew its inferior bid quoting capital allocation rigor as the reason for not doing a higher bid.
  • Jinchuan is a government owned non-ferrous metals miner. The company has been rumoured to plan an IPO for many years. End of 2010 the company announced a small acquisition in South African platinum mining and furthermore the company bought a Canadian developer of a mine in Tibet.

Implications:

  • The acquisition by Jinchuan is an example of Chinese company’s high willingness to pay for foreign assets. The project is certainly not worth more to Jinchuan than to Vale, which owns assets nearby which could cause synergies. However, Chinese companies are willing to pay a high premium to grow internationally, positioning themselves as state champion in a consolidating industry.

©2011 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Copper wars: Barrick outbids Minmetals for Equinox

April 26, 2011 Comments off

“Barrick Gold Corporation announced today that it has entered into a support agreement with Equinox Minerals Limited for Barrick to acquire, through an all-cash offer, all of the issued and outstanding common shares of Equinox (including the shares represented by Equinox’s CHESS Depositary Interests) by way of a friendly take-over offer. The Offer is for C$8.15 per Equinox share in cash, or a total of approximately C$7.3 billion. The Offer represents a 30% premium based on Equinox’s closing share price on the Toronto Stock Exchange on February 25, 2011 (the last trading day before Equinox announced its intention to make a take-over bid for the common shares of Lundin Mining Corporation). The Offer also represents a 16% premium over the per share price under the offer for Equinox proposed by Minmetals Resources Ltd. on April 3, 2011 (which offer has not yet commenced).”

Source: Barrick Press Release, April 26 2011

Observations:

  • Barrick’s appearance as a white knight is a surprising turn in the copper wars, which started in January when Inmet and Lundin announced plans to merge into Symterra
  • Minmetals dropped its bid for Equinox the day after Barrick’s offer, saying that entering into a bidding war would destruct value for its shareholders.

Implications:

The bid by Barrick has two interesting implications: a continued uncertainty about consolidation in the copper industry; and changing dynamics in the relationship between gold and copper miners.

  • Consolidation in the copper industry: although Minmetals appears not to enter into a bidding war, other offers for Equinox might follow. The incentive to keep Barrick out of the copper industry might trigger players like Freeport-McMoran and Xstrata/Glencore to make an offer. Furthermore the players that started the copper wars, Inmet and Lundin, are available as takeover or merger targets again.
  • Copper vs. Gold dynamics: Barrick’s entrance into the copper arena is a significant change of strategy for the gold miner. Its Chilean copper operations did not account for more than 10% of revenue until now, but the copper output will be doubled by adding Equinox’ capacity. Operational synergies with Equinox’ assets in Zambia and Saudi Arabia will not be achieved, thus the acquisition is purely a move for increased diversification. Other gold miners, sitting on piles of cash, might follow Barrick’s strategy.

©2011 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Vale Offers $1.13 Billion for Metorex

April 11, 2011 Comments off

“Brazilian iron-ore giant Vale SA said Friday it will acquire control of South Africa-based copper and cobalt miner Metorex Ltd. for nearly $1.13 billion. The deal will help Vale inch closer to its aim of becoming one of the world’s biggest copper producers, with a long-term production target of one million metric tons a year of the metal.

Vale, which will pay for the acquisition in cash, said the operation still must be approved by Metorex’s shareholders and regulatory bodies in South Africa, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. As well as being listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, Metorex has a secondary listing on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange and American depositary receipts traded over-the-counter in the U.S. Following the planned acquisition of the entirety of Metorex’s share capital, the company will be delisted, Vale said.”

Source: Wall Street Journal, April 8 2011

Observations:

  • Shareprice of Metorex has doubled since September 2010, driven by high copper price, weakening South African currency. The price jumped from R5.50 to R7.50 in the past 3 weeks.
  • The current 26 thousand ton (long term production target of a million tons of copper per year) adds to Vale’s 208 thousand ton sold in 2010. Other copper expansion projects of the company are the Chilean Tres Valles project and Salobo copper mine in Brazil. These 2 projects together should add approx. 120 thousand tons.

Implications:

  • The stronger diversification into base metals and other geographies is an important means for Vale to become less dependent on iron ore prices. Vale’s 208 thousand tons of copper production compared to 678 thousand tons for Rio Tinto, 913 thousand tons for Xstrata. It is a good sign that the company is trying to grow by carefully selecting bolt-on acquisitions with high growth potential.
  • Next to buying a set of assets and projects with high growth potential located close to the Konkola North project it operates with African Rainbow Minerals, the company gains access to an enormous amount of expertise on doing mining business in Sub Saharan Africa with the Metorex management. Congo clearly is a high-risk business environment, and plunging in greenfield without an experienced management team would greatly reduce the change of success.

©2011 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

Equinox Bids for Citadel Shares

October 26, 2010 Comments off

“Zambia-focused copper producer Equinox Minerals Ltd. plans to leap into the top 20 of global copper producers with a 1.25 billion Australian dollars (US$1.24 billion) bid for explorer Citadel Resource Group Ltd.

On Monday Equinox, whose Lumwana mine produced nearly 44,000 metric tons of copper in the three months to Sep. 30, launched a recommended cash-and-share bid for Citadel, which is focused on the Jabal Sayid copper-gold project in Saudi Arabia. Equinox aims to produce 260,000 tons a year by 2014, of which 60,000 tons would come from Jabal Sayid.”

Source: Wall Street Journal, October 25 2010

Observations:

  • Global annual copper output in 2009 was 16Mt, growing at a modest annual rate of 3-5%. The 260,000 tons per year by 2014 would therefore correspond with approx. 1.3% of global copper production.
  • The share price of both companies increased after the cash & stock offer, signaling investors expect the merger to create value.

Implications:

  • The acquisition offer is part of a renewed interest in acquisitions in the mining industry, as companies that have survived the crisis with cash reserves are trying to grow by mergers.
  • The exact source of synergies for the merger is unclear. The bid holds a premium of approx. 20%, which appears to be much more than what management and trading synergies could achieve.
  • Many recent acquisition attempts in the mining industry appear to be more driven by management politics than by financial rationale. Highest synergies in the mining industry are typically achieved in the logistical area (as attempted by the Australian BHP-Rio Joint Venture). The Equinox-Citadel combination, operating in Zambia and Saudi Arabia, is not expected to realize any savings in this area.

©2010 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com

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