China's Minmetals Ends Bid for Australian Miner

Barrick Gold won bid to buy Equinox for $7.7 billion.

China's Minmetals Resources said April 26 that it would withdraw a bid for Equinox Minerals of Australia after a Canadian firm topped its offer, ending Beijing's latest move on Australia's mining sector.

Canada's Barrick Gold, the world's biggest gold miner, said on April 25 that it had struck a deal to buy Equinox for Can$7.3 billion (US$7.7 billion), well above the $6.5 billion Minmetals offer earlier this month.

Minmetals' bid for Equinox would have been the biggest Chinese takeover of an Australian resources firm and would have provided access to huge deposits in Zambia and Saudi Arabia. It would have also created the 14th largest copper producer in the world.

"While we still consider the Equinox assets provide a good fit with MMR's strategy, the price offered by Barrick is above our most optimistic assessment of value," Minmetals chief executive Andrew Michelmore said.

"Competing with Barrick at these prices would, in our view, be value destructive for MMR's shareholders," he added.

Minmetals, China's largest metals trader, saw its shares plunge 9.1% to close at HK$5.19 ($0.67) after a suspension in the morning following news of Barrick's offer.

Barrick offered Can$8.15 per Equinox share in cash, which represents a 16% premium over the per-share offer from Minmetals on April 4.

Equinox said that its board of directors has "unanimously determined" to accept Barrick's move, adding that it was in the "best interests" of the Australian firm. "(The offer) is an attractive opportunity for Equinox shareholders to realize a significant premium for their shares in an all cash deal at a time of historically strong copper prices," its chief executive Craig R. Williams said.

The company said it had also received enquiries from "a number of parties" after the offer by Minmetals.

Equinox is listed in both Canada and Australia and has previously called the takeover bid by Minmetals "opportunistic" and "lowball".

Minmetals' initial bid was the latest move by a Chinese state-owned firm to get a foothold in Australia's mining sector as the Asian powerhouse looks to tap the continent's huge natural deposits to feed its ever-growing economy. However, Beijing's interest in its mining firms has sparked intense debate in Australia over whether to allow Chinese state-owned entities to increase their control over the country's resources.

Minmetals is 75% controlled by state-owned China Minmetals Corp.

Commodity prices have hit record highs over the past few months, fueled by heavy demand from economic powers China and India and sparking a series of mergers and acquisitions in the industry.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011

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