* BHP may sell all or part of Nickel West
* Nickel West valued at $459 mln - Deutsche Bank
* Glencore Xstrata, X2 Resources seen as potential bidders
(Adds analyst comment, potential bidders)
MELBOURNE, May 14 BHP Billiton is in
talks to sell its Australian nickel business, the top global
miner said on Wednesday, in line with its aim of simplifying the
The push towards a sale comes as nickel prices have
surged 50 percent this year on the back of a ban on nickel ore
exports from Indonesia, which has seen the value of some nickel
miners nearly double.
BHP said it was examining all options for Western
Australia-based Nickel West, including the sale of all or parts
of the business, which includes the Mt Keith, Cliffs and
Leinster mines, the Kalgoorlie smelter, Kambalda concentrator
and the Kwinana refinery.
"The process of engaging with third parties has commenced,"
BHP spokeswoman Fiona Hadley said. "We're not going to speculate
on the timing or outcomes of the review."
The company has lumped Nickel West with two other unwanted
businesses, aluminium and manganese, and flagged earlier this
year that one option would be to spin off all three into a
Deutsche Bank said in an April note that it valued Nickel
West at $459 million, but that does not incorporate the bank's
more recent nickel price forecasts following a sharp climb over
the past month.
Analysts expect BHP to fetch a strong price if it does go
ahead with a sale, just as it has in $6.5 billion worth of asset
sales over the past two years, including its stake in the Browse
LNG project and its diamonds business.
"Look at what assets BHP has sold in the last two years.
They've all been at well above analysts' NPV (net present
value)," Deutsche Bank analyst Paul Young said.
Glencore Xstrata CEO Ivan Glasenberg has said that
Glencore would look at Nickel West. There has also been
speculation that former Xstrata boss Mick Davis, leading a new
mining investment firm X2 Resources, is looking at it, too.
BHP declined to comment on who or how many parties the
company was talking to. Goldman Sachs is advising BHP on the
The miner is a top-tier producer of nickel, used to make
stainless steel, along with Norilsk of Russia,
Brazil's Vale and Glencore.
BHP has not talked about the fate of its profitable stake in
the Cerro Matoso nickel mine in Colombia, the most valuable part
of its nickel business.
(Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Richard Pullin)