February 15, 2016 / 2:26 PM / 4 years ago

UPDATE 1-Sumitomo Metal Mining to buy 13 pct stake in Morenci mine for $1 bln

* Sumitomo Metal stake in Morenci comes to 25pct after the deal

* President says to seek stakes in gold mines (Recasts with details and Sumitomo Metal comments)

Feb 15 (Reuters) - Sumitomo Metal Mining, Japan’s second-biggest copper producer, said on Monday it would raise its stake in southeast Arizona’s Morenci open-pit copper mine by buying 13 percent from majority owner Freeport-McMoRan for $1 billion.

The move comes at a time when copper prices are near six-and-a-half-year lows.

Last November, the company’s President Yoshiaki Nakazato said it was looking to acquire stakes in copper and gold mines, taking advantage of its sound finances and a slump in commodity prices to sustain future growth.

The acquisition will take Sumitomo Metal’s share in Morenci to 25 percent from 12 percent, while Sumitomo Corp holds 3 percent, leaving Freeport with the rest.

Freeport said it expects to record a gain of about $550 million on the transaction and expects it to close in mid-2016.

Sumitomo Metal has a long-term goal to boost its annual copper output to 300,000 tonnes in the year to March 2022, up from a planned output of 170,000 tonnes in the current business year.

“After the deal our long-term goal will come within our sight,” Nakazato told a news conference.

The miner also aims to nearly double its gold output to 30 tonnes in the 2021 business year from 16 tonnes this year and nickel production to 150,000 tonnes from 100,000 tonnes.

“We’ll aggressively pursue stakes in gold mines in the next three years,” Nakazato said.

Several miners have indicated they are on the look-out for copper assets, as slowing demand growth in top consumer China has pushed prices to multi-year lows.

Under a new three-year business plan unveiled on Monday, the Tokyo-based company is aiming to have increased net profits to 120 billion yen for the year ending March 2019.

Earlier this month, the miner was forced to trim its profit forecast for the year ending March 31 2016 by 93 percent to 5 billion yen due to a hefty writedown on the Sierra Gorda copper mine in Chile.

Sumitomo Metal, also Japan’s biggest nickel smelter, has budgeted for total investments of 180 billion yen over the next three years, including 66 billion on smelting and 36 billion yen on mining.

To cope with a tighter supply of nickel ore after Indonesia’s export ban, the smelter will shut one of the two local electric arc furnaces to make ferro-nickel, it said. (Reporting by Yuka Obayashi in Tokyo and Shivam Srivastava in Bengaluru; Editing by Anand Basu, and Susanna Twidale)

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