February 3, 2011 / 10:12 PM / 9 years ago

Candente Copper for sale at double or nothing: CEO

BANGALORE (Reuters) - Canada’s Candente Copper Corp (DNT.TO), which owns one of the largest undeveloped copper deposits in Peru, is ready to sell itself but only at double its current value, its chief executive said.

With copper prices rising, Canadian miners HudBay Minerals Inc (HBM.TO) and First Quantum Minerals (FM.TO) have recently bought small Peru-focused miners, putting the spotlight on Candente’s Canariaco Norte copper project in the South American country.

“There are many companies interested in buying our project, but we would not sell at anything near our current market cap ... we are working very hard to get a better valuation on our shares right now,” Candente’s co-founder and CEO Joanne Freeze told Reuters by telephone.

The Canariaco project has a current resource base of 10.3 billion pounds of copper equivalent, nearly a quarter of estimated global copper demand this year. It is Candente’s primary project.

Canariaco is valued at nearly 2.5 cents a pound, Freeze said, or $250 million.

“It’s a robust project and copper is an attractive commodity right now,” said Freeze, who lived and worked in Peru in the mid-1990s and has headed the mineral explorer for nearly 14 years.

She said many groups were interested in partnering with Candente on the project, but declined to give details.

Freeze wants at least 5 cents a pound for the project, which is moving from the pre-feasibility stage, with commercial production targeted by 2015.

The average price for such projects in Peru is about 3.8 cents a pound, said Stonecap Securities analyst Gary Hon, who values Canariaco at about 2.4 cents a pound.

THE BETTER MINE

In December, First Quantum completed the acquisition of Antares Minerals ANM.V, which owns the Haquira project, and last month, HudBay agreed to buy Norsemont Mining Inc NOM.TO to get access to the Constancia copper project.

Canariaco stacks up well versus Constancia and Haquira, Wellington West analyst Steve Parsons wrote in a recent note.

Candente may spark interest from Chinese companies, given the increasing demand for copper and gold.

“Some of the obvious ones could be the Chinese as they’re quite interested in the region,” said Hon at Stonecap Securities.

Zijin Mining Group Co Ltd (601899.SS) was cited as a potential partner for Candente in 2006 to develop the Canariaco project, Hon wrote in a client note.

The cost of developing the mine is estimated at more than $1.4 billion, which raises funding issues, analysts said.

“I don’t see any funding restraints,” said Freeze.

Candente recently raised about $30 million, she said, and believes that Peruvian Pension Funds — which has $22 billion to deploy — are a likely source of funds.

Candente’s shares were trading flat at C$2.13 on Wednesday afternoon on the Toronto Stock Exchange. The stock has risen nearly five-fold in the past year.

($1=.9919 Canadian Dollar)

Reporting by Arnika Thakur in Bangalore; Editing by Unnikrishnan Nair

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