Canada's Barrick Gold Corp will wait and see if an offer to trump its C$7.3 billion ($7.68 billion) bid for Equinox Minerals emerges, Barrick's chief executive said on Tuesday.
Barrick's agreed offer for Equinox pits the world's largest gold miner against Minmetals Resources <1208.HK>, a unit of China's largest metals trader, in a battle for copper assets.
Barrick offered to buy Equinox for C$8.15 a share, an 8.7 percent premium over its Thursday closing price. The all-cash bid is 16 percent higher than the C$6.3 billion offer made by Minmetals earlier this month.
I would be purely speculating ... I don't know, said Barrick Chief Executive Aaron Regent, when asked by reporters on a conference call on whether he expected a higher, rival bid.
We put what we think is a fair offer on the table and the Equinox board and management think so as well and we have their endorsement. If there is another bid coming we will have to wait and see.
Equinox, a global miner listed in Canada and Australia, owns the Lumwana mine in Africa's rich Zambian copper belt and most of the Jabal Sayid project in Saudi Arabia.
This is a unique opportunity, an opportunity to acquire a large copper production base with expansion potential in an attractive region, Regent said.
Equinox had previously called the C$7-a-share Minmetals offer a low-ball bid. On Monday it said it believes the Barrick bid is superior in terms of price and its likelihood of completion.
Equinox shares jumped 11.6 percent in Toronto on Monday and closed at C$8.37, about 3 percent higher than Barrick's offer.
In Australia, markets were closed for a public holiday. Trading resumes on Wednesday.
Minmetals said it would not comment on the Barrick offer until it had studied the details.
Minmetals shares were suspended from trade in Hong Kong on Tuesday.
Barrick would use about half of the $4 billion in cash they have on their balance sheet to fund the deal, Regent said. The balance would be funded with debt, revolving credit facilities and new bonds.
Regent, who has a background in base metals, sees the takeover bid as an opportunity to gain access to the Zambian copper belt at a time when copper prices are expected to keep climbing to fresh records.
But the deal would lower Barrick's exposure to gold to 80 percent from a current 90 percent.
Regent said the company's focus remained on copper and gold and that it was not planning on expanding into other commodities at this stage.
As part of the Barrick agreement, Equinox will pull its unsolicited bid for Lundin Mining . Equinox had been trying to take over the rival copper miner since February but conceded on Monday that its own shareholders would not likely have supported the deal.
Barrick will double its position in copper with the acquisition. Prices have risen more than sevenfold in the past eight years as supplies lag the surging needs of China and other developing economies.
Equinox's Lumwana mine is Africa's third-largest copper operation by production and the Jabal Sayid development is due to start production next year.
(Editing by Dhara Ranasinghe and Lincoln Feast)