Copper miner PanAust tops JP Morgan's Australia M&A picks

MELBOURNE Wed Jan 9, 2013 9:39pm EST

MELBOURNE Jan 10 (Reuters) - Copper and gold miner PanAust Ltd is Australia's top contender to be taken over in 2013 in another year likely to be dominated by acquisitions of resource companies, according to an annual report from JP Morgan's specialist sales desk.

Royal Dutch Shell could bid for oil and gas producer Santos Ltd or Senex Energy Ltd this year, gold and nickel miners are likely to see consolidation, and Echo Entertainment Group will remain a target of Crown Ltd, the JP Morgan sales desk team predicted.

Since starting its "Specialist Sales Top Takeovers List" three years ago, JP Morgan has successfully picked 20 Australian takeover stocks, it said.

"Our no. 1 pick for 2013 will be PanAust. Copper consolidation continues globally, and PanAust is one of the largest listed players left," JP Morgan said in the report, which was obtained by Reuters.

"It will only be a matter of time before it gets acquired," the report said.

The team advised buying PanAust, which is expected to produce 68,000 tonnes of copper this year and has projects in Laos, Thailand and Chile, and offsetting that with a short position in potential acquirer Oz Minerals Ltd.

Another possible 2013 play is a takeover of Santos and/or Senex by Shell, according to the report.

"Acquiring Santos makes strategic sense for Shell. This should lead to a four train LNG (liquefied natural gas) project which is more in line with the scale that Shell would like for a high cost LNG project," the report said.

Buru Energy, an emerging oil and shale gas play with assets in the Canning Basin in Western Australia, could be eyed by North West Shelf joint venture partners Woodside Petroleum, BHP Billiton, BP Plc, Shell and Chevron.

"The North West Shelf is short gas from 2020 and Buru Energy's large acreage could be seen as a potential solution to extend the life of the project," the report said.

Top gold takeover targets were named as Regis Resources , Medusa, and Perseus.

Western Areas and Mirabela Nickel, two of the largest listed players left in the nickel industry, may be targeted respectively for high grades and long mine life.

And Crown, billionaire James Packer's company, may make a bid for rival Echo.

"Our view is that Crown will bid for Echo this year to ensure it has a monopoly position in Sydney just like it has in Melbourne and Perth," said the team, which had chosen Echo as the top pick in 2012.

There was potential for Vale, Glencore or Chinese suitors to bid for Atlas Iron to gain entry into the Pilbara iron ore region.

"It is already producing, has an open shareholder register, and it is not too large at a market cap of A$1.6 billion," JP Morgan said of Atlas.

Other possibilities were BG acquiring Drillsearch Energy, Paladin Energy attracting interest from Cameco Corp or Chinese firms, and offers for Centro Retail Australia, Mirvac Group or Commonwealth Property Office Fund.

IOOF Holdings, the only remaining listed pure wealth management player left, may catch the attention of AMP Ltd or one of the major banks.

And construction group Adelaide Brighton might attract Fletcher Building, possibly as a joint bid with Boral, the yearly update said.