UPDATE 1-Minority partner looks to block sale of Canadian diamond mine

Thu Jan 17, 2013 11:10am EST

* Harry Winston agreed last year to buy BHP's stake in mine
    * Minority partner says BHP did not comply with JV agreement
    * Partner seeks revised offer from BHP
    * Harry Winston share down 2.8 percent to C$14.25 on TSX


    Jan 17 (Reuters) - Harry Winston Diamond Corp's plan
to buy BHP Billiton's  Ekati diamond operations
in Northern Canada hit a snag on Thursday, with a minority
partner filing a lawsuit to try to block the deal.
    C. Fipke Holdings Ltd, which has a right of first refusal on
the sale, is alleging that BHP Billiton failed to comply with
their joint venture agreement, in an legal action in the Ontario
Superior Court of Justice.
    Fipke is seeking a court order to stop the sale, unless
provided with a revised offer from BHP, Harry Winston said in a
statement on Thursday.   
    Shares of Harry Winston fell 2.8 percent to C$14.25 on
Thursday morning on the Toronto Stock Exchange.  
    BHP agreed in November to sell its Ekati operations to Harry
Winston for $500 million. The smaller company said it would fund
the cash deal through existing resources and debt, including a
$400 million term loan and a $100 million revolving credit
facility. 
    Fipke has also alleged in its claim that Harry Winston's
debt financing deal has interfered with its ability to arrange
its own financing, Harry Winston said.
    All parties in the lawsuit have a agreed to an expedited
trial and appeal, which will allow for a final ruling by April
15. If the courts rule in favor of BHP and Harry Winston, the
deal could close by May 15, 2013. 
    Fipke holds a 10 percent stake in both the Ekati Core zone
and Buffer zone joint ventures. The two other minority partners
do not intend to oppose the deal, Harry Winston said in a
statement.
    Harry Winston agreed earlier this week to sell its jewelry
arm to Switzerland's Swatch in a $1 billion deal that
leaves the Canadian company free to concentrate on its mining
business.
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