Swiss giant Glencore bids for Australian miner

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Swiss-based commodities giant Glencore Wednesday announced takeover bid for Australian nickel miner Minara, its first major play since listing in London and Hong Kong.

The off-market cash bid for the 27 percent of Minara's shares Glencore does not already own, values the cobalt and nickel firm at Aus$1.02 billion (US$1.07 billion), or 87 cents a share.

Glencore said the offer was a "substantial premium to Minara's recent trading price and an attractive exit opportunity" for shareholders after the miner reported a 31.2 percent drop in half-year profit to Aus$27.3 million.

"Glencore's offer provides the certainty of cash value to Minara shareholders," the commodities giant said in a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange.

"Glencore's offer is the only takeover offer currently available for Minara shareholders," it added.

"Given Glencore's majority holding in Minara Glencore considers it unlikely that an alternative takeover offer will emerge."

Minara's shares soared 37 percent to 88 cents on the back of the news.

The Swiss company, who made its debut on the London and Hong Kong exchanges in May, added that it "may be in a position to compulsorily acquire 100 percent of Minara shares following the offer," which will open on September 8.

Until then, Glencore said it "proposes to seek to purchase Minara shares at the offer price on the ASX".

Minara chairman Malcolm Macpherson said the board was taking expert advice on whether the bid was fair and reasonable and urged shareholders not to act until a formal recommendation was made.

But analysts saw the takeover as a done deal due to the fact that Glencore already held such a dominant stake and was prepared to pay such a hefty premium.

"The market's telling us that the bid is about right," said Jim Parker, from Dimension Fund Advisors, Minara's second-largest shareholder with a four percent stake.

"We're not in any hurry to accept. We'll look at the terms and take our time."

Glencore is riding a cash wave due to booming global demand for energy and metals, in June reporting a 47 percent surge in first-quarter profit to US$1.3 billion and saying it was "well positioned" for the rest of 2011.

It paid US$475 million for a majority stake in Peruvian mine owner Marcobre last month and was recently named in takeover speculation about Kazakh miner ENRC, but the Minara bid is its largest play since the dual float in May.

The EU's financial arm, the European Investment Bank, froze future loans to Glencore in June over suspected tax evasion in Zambia, allegations it denies.

© 2011 AFP

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