While this year's Mining Indaba in Cape Town is more subdued and serious than 2008's bustling event, various mining companies walking the passages of this year's conference are said to be looking for a deal as many bargains are on the table. BDO Spencer Stewart's mining experts say they have been tasked by mid-sized mining company clients to find investments, particularly in Africa where there is still great value to be found. They say cash-flush, mid-tier clients with one or two producing assets have to take the obvious step of acquiring more projects to use their existing infrastructure and in-house expertise to develop these.
It is a particularly good time to make acquisitions in the mining space at the moment, as various junior mining companies were still undervalued if one took long-term average prices into account.
However, the experts believe there won't be much cash spent to acquire these assets, but deals will be completed with shares, leaving investors in under-pressure junior mining companies without a cash windfall.
And while there are many keen buyers in the market and even more juniors that have come under pressure as they expend too much cash or need to raise money to develop projects, there is not much agreement yet on takeovers as prices are a sticky issue.
There is no meeting of the minds yet as sellers and buyers can't agree on price. However, brokers, lawyers, almost everybody treading the halls of Indaba say that people are looking for deals.
The dam wall will break once the December results are announced and reveal that many juniors have used up cash and have bad debts, says Sherif Andrawes, a mining expert from BDO Kendalls of Australia. Andrawes said the more time passed the more desperate the junior companies in trouble will become. The firm expected numerous deals to take place within the next six months and some companies to sink amidst the corporate action because they moved too late.
The experts quoted an example of a mid-tier ASX-listed mining company that recently looked at 27 different opportunities of acquiring junior miners and made offers for three of these. The junior mining companies would not accept the mid-tier company's offer but might soon realise that they were offered a good deal, they say.
Mining companies in Australia believe there are still great opportunities and assets in Africa and it is a continent they understand well.
In terms of capital raisings both the AIM and TSX is dead as their appetite for risk is gone. There are many junior mining companies that will not be at next year's Indaba if they don't conclude a corporate transaction in time, said Ursula van Eck BDO mining expert in South Africa.