UPDATE 2-Australia's OZ Minerals CEO to go, seeks partner, acquisitions

Tue Feb 11, 2014 11:03pm EST

Related Topics

* OZ Minerals books underlying loss of $62.5 mln

* Seeks new CEO within the next 12 months

* Cash pile nearly halves to A$364 mln

* Shares jump 13 pct to four-month high (Adds details, quotes, bylines, updates shares)

By Sonali Paul and James Regan

MELBOURNE/SYDNEY, Feb 12 (Reuters) - Australian copper miner OZ Minerals, under pressure to grow and seeking acquisitions, said it will look for a new chief executive after reporting a full-year loss on Wednesday, sending its stock up 13 percent.

OZ Minerals said it was also in talks to find a joint venture partner to take a leading role in developing its next big project, Carapateena in South Australia, as output declines at its sole producing mine, Prominent Hill.

Chief Executive Terry Burgess, who has led the company for the past five years, said he planned to stay on for up to a year to ensure an orderly transition.

He joins a growing list of chief executives who oversaw operations during a decade-long mining boom but lost their jobs amid restructuring to adjust to weakening minerals prices.

In the last year or so, BHP Billiton , Anglo American Rio Tinto , Xstrata (now Glencore Xstrata among others have appointed new chief executives.

Shares in OZ Minerals, which has lost nearly three-quarters of its value over the past three years, jumped 13 percent on the news to A$3.84, outpacing a 0.7 percent rise in the broader market.

"The way I read the (positive) market reaction is as a 'clearing of the decks'," said Evan Lucas, market strategist at broker IG Markets.

Burgess said the company was in talks with a number of parties over co-developing the Carapateena project, including bigger international copper producers anxious acquire new mines. He declined to given the names of potential partners.

OZ Minerals has previously estimated Carapateena, which has relatively deep lower-grade reserves of copper, could cost about A$2 billion to develop.

Copper is proving more resilient than other metals to the downturn in mining, widening its appeal for mining companies.

Glencore Xstrata, which has a big exposure to copper boosted output by more than a quarter to 1.5 million tonnes in 2013.

In Peru, Teck Resources Ltd, Newmont Mining Corp , private equity group Blackstone Group LP and a group led by the former head of Barrick Gold had looked at a bid for Glencore Xstrata's Las Bambas copper mine, according to several people familiar with the matter.

Burgess said Oz Minerals was also on the lookout for acquisitions that would provide immediate copper production to replace declining output from Prominent Hill.

"Can we still do M&As? Yes," Burgess told reporters.

Burgess has been under fire for allowing a cash pile at the company to dwindle to A$364 million - half what it was a year ago - while prowling for companies to buy.

Despite posting an underlying loss of A$62.5 million ($56.5 million) for 2013, Australia's third-biggest copper miner also declared a surprise dividend of A$0.30 a share

At the bottom line the company reported a loss of A$294.4 million, marred by a writedown on Prominent Hill, taken at the half-year.

($1 = 1.1072 Australian dollars) (Additional reporting by Maggie Lu Yueyang and Thuy Ong; Editing by Richard Pullin)

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