/ 26 April 2011

Barrick strikes deal for Equinox, tops Minmetals

Barrick Gold said on Monday it had struck a deal to buy Australian copper miner Equinox Minerals for more than C$7-billion (Canadian dollars), topping a takeover offer by China’s Minmetals Resources by 16%.

Already the world’s largest gold miner, Barrick is looking to bolster its position in copper, a primary industrial metal, while prices are near record highs.

Toronto-based Barrick said Equinox had agreed to be acquired for $8,15 a share, an 8,7% premium over the company’s Thursday closing price. According to Reuters data, Equinox has about 879,5-million listed shares, which would make the deal worth nearly $7,2-billion.

Minmetals earlier this month offered to buy Equinox for $7 a share, but the Australian copper miner called that proposal a low-ball bid. Equinox said it believes the Barrick bid is superior in terms of price and likelihood of completion.

Barrick said its agreement for Equinox prevents the Australian miner from soliciting superior bids and gives Barrick the right to match any higher offers. Equinox would have to pay Barrick $250-million to walk away from the deal, even if it accepts a higher bid.

‘Significant production growth potential’
Equinox has prime copper assets in Africa and Saudi Arabia that make it attractive to larger miners. Its Lumwana copper and uranium mine in Zambia is Africa’s third-largest copper mine by production and the Jabal Sayid copper development in Saudi Arabia is due to start production next year.

Barrick chief executive Aaron Regent said the deal would improve the company’s copper exposure in a strong price environment for the metal, which is used in construction and industrial applications.

“Combined with our Zaldivar mine and Cerro Casale project in Chile, this acquisition would position Barrick with significant production growth potential in two of the most prolific copper-producing regions of the world,” Regent said.

As part of its agreement to be bought by Barrick, Equinox will pull its unsolicited bid for Lundin Mining. Equinox had been trying to take over its rival copper miner since February but conceded on Monday that its own shareholders would not likely have supported the deal.

United States-listed shares of Barrick slid 1,4% to $54,85 in pre-market trading after the announcement.

Barrick said it has committed cash and financing in place for the transaction. It expects the deal to add to earnings per share and cash flow immediately.

Morgan Stanley and RBC Capital Markets advised Barrick on the deal, while CIBC World Markets, Goldman Sachs and TD Securities acted as financial advisers to Equinox. — Reuters