Equinox CEO says offer for Lundin is best copper play

TORONTO Mon Mar 7, 2011 12:56pm EST

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TORONTO (Reuters) - An offer by Equinox Minerals Ltd EQN.AX to buy Toronto-listed Lundin Mining Corp (LUN.TO) is worth more than just the C$4.8 billion bid price ($4.94 billion), the chief executive of the Australian miner says.

"It's not just the premium, it's the far better growth profile that we're offering," Equinox CEO Craig Williams told Reuters on Monday on the sidelines of the Prospectors and Developers (PDAC) conference in Toronto.

Equinox launched its takeover bid for Lundin on February 28, and is attempting to thwart an acquisition of the company by Canadian rival Inmet IMN.TO.

Lundin and Inmet announced the deal in January, pledging to create a C$9 billion copper producer as prices for the metal ride ever higher on China and other emerging market demand.

The companies have called it a merger of equals, but Inmet shareholders would own a little over 52 percent of the resulting entity.

Williams maintains his company's offer represents a 26 percent premium for Lundin shareholders, compared with none under Inmet's proposal.

He also said the Equinox offer will form a company that takes greater advantage of booming copper prices.

"Our offer captures the short-term copper price environment and will produce over 500,000 tonnes in addition to what Lundin/Inmet would do in the next five years," he said. "That's a benefit that we are offering. ... We are really delivering into the near-term copper market."

Copper for three-month delivery on the London Metal Exchange has risen by two-thirds since June, hitting an all-time high of $10,190 a tonne in mid-February. The metal, used in power and construction, was trading at $9,614 on Monday.

Lundin's 24.75 percent stake in Freeport's (FCX.N) massive Tenke-Fungurume copper-cobalt mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo and its Neves-Corvo copper-zinc mine in Portugal are assets that appeal to both Inmet and Equinox.

Williams said Equinox to issue formal offer circular later on Monday.

Lundin and Inmet said late on Sunday they had pushed back shareholder votes on their deal as Lundin's board weighs the rival bid from Equinox Minerals.

The votes, which had been scheduled for March 14, will now be held on March 28, Lundin and Inmet said on Sunday in Canada.

(Editing by Frank McGurty)

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