Bonds News

First Quantum eyes stake sale in Panama mine -sources

LONDON/TORONTO, March 24 (Reuters) - Miner First Quantum Minerals is considering selling a minority stake in its flagship Cobre Panama copper mine to reduce debt, two banking sources familiar with the discussions said.

First Quantum’s possible move comes as global miners scramble to bolster finances strained by the coronavirus pandemic, which has battered stocks and copper prices. First Quantum shares are down more than 50% this year.

Total investment in Cobre Panama up to 2019 stood at $6.3 billion, according to the company.

With a market capitalization of $2.4 billion, First Quantum trades around three times its earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, compared to an average of eight times for mining companies. Its net debt at the end of 2019 stood at $8.8 billion.

The Canadian miner will have to do more than refinance its debt after talks to sell down its Zambian mines stalled because of the outbreak, said one of the sources.

First Quantum did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday. Sources declined to be identified as the discussions are confidential.

Cobre Panama, with proven copper reserves of 3.18 billion tonnes and a 40-year mine life, is 90 percent owned by First Quantum. (Reporting by Clara Denina in London and Jeff Lewis in Toronto Editing by Denny Thomas and Rosalba O’Brien)