As Business Review Australia’s sister site Mining Global recently wrote, the mining industry was shocked to discover former Xstrata CEO Mick Davis, who now operates mining investment group X2 Resources, is rumored to be in serious discussion to purchase some of Rio Tinto’s coal assets in Australia.
Although still in the very early stages, the multibillion-dollar deal has generated solid interest from both sides.
With more than $5.6 million at his disposal, Davis is still looking to acquire his first assets for X2. Earlier this month, the company was in the bidding war to purchase Barrick Gold’s Zaldivar copper mine in Chile. Unfortunately, the company was outbid in the first round of the sale process.
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In addition, reports surfaced last year that Davis wanted to purchase BHP Billiton’s thermal coal assets, while it was also rumored to be in the running for Vale’s nickel business earlier this year.
According to reports, Rio Tinto is open to possibly relinquishing its thermal coal assets in NSW in addition to its metallurgical coal assets in QLD. If Rio Tinto follows through and sells it thermal coal assets in New South Wales, it will be the biggest divesture by the company under CEO Sam Walsh.
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"I don't think Rio are wedded to these assets and if they get the right valuation for them I'm sure they would consider divesting," said Michelle Lopez, senior investment manager at Aberdeen Asset Management.
"Both possible acquirers [X2 and Glencore] are opportunistic, so the question becomes what's an appropriate valuation given these are long-life, scalable assets, but the coal price is unlikely to see much upside over the medium term."
The deal between would make sense for both sides, as X2 has coal and copper are on the top of its wish-list, however, there could me hurdles to climb as Glencore is also rumored to be interested in acquiring Rio’s coal assets.
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Rio’s Hunter Valley coal mine is right next door to Glencore’s coal business and the Swiss company tried to strike a deal for the coal mines with Rio Tinto a year ago as merging these mines with nearby coal assets owned by Glencore would lower the cost of production.
According to sources, Glencore is prepared to put $1.5-$2 billion on the table to acquire the assets, while X2 is likely willing to dish upwards of $3 billion.