TORONTO - HudBay Minerals plans to embark on an acquisition spree and is targeting companies valued as high as C$1 billion ($885 million), the base metals miner's chief executive said on Friday.
Speaking to reporters after the company's annual shareholder meeting in Toronto, CEO Peter Jones -- who began his second term at the company's helm in March -- said HudBay was eyeing primarily late-stage development projects in regions including Latin America and Africa.
Hopefully, we're not talking about a single acquisition. Hopefully we're talking about a series of significant and... lesser acquisitions (or) joint ventures, he said.
The acquisitions form part of the company's new strategic plan, which investors have been waiting for following a bitter proxy battle that led the previous board and CEO Allen Palmiere to step down in March after a disastrous attempt to take over Lundin Mining.
HudBay also plans to expand its footprint around its traditional base of operations in the Flin Flon greenstone belt in Manitoba, and has high hopes for its Lalor Lake zinc/gold deposit in Manitoba and its Fenix nickel project in Guatemala, which was put on hold last year due to weak prices.
Asked if HudBay was currently in talks with any potential targets, Jones said the company has a number of irons in the fire.
Jones, whose first stint as CEO ended in January 2008 after he was unable to follow through on promises to expand through acquisition, was brought on board by top shareholder SRM Global Master Fund, which led the charge against the Lundin takeover.
SRM complained the bid for Lundin, which had a weaker balance sheet but more resources than HudBay, was too expensive and dilutive for HudBay shareholders.
HudBay has since amended its bylaws to require shareholder approval of any transaction that will dilute shares by more than 25 percent.
HudBay's shares have more than doubled since the bid was scuttled in February, helped in part by recovering metals prices. Lundin's stock has quadrupled in that time.
The company has plenty to spend on any takeover attempt, with around C$800 million in cash.
He's got the cash to go and do things and it's probably the right time to buy, said David Whetham, who holds HudBay shares in two funds he manages at Scotia Cassels.
It's implementing that's the tough thing.
HudBay's Toronto-listed stock initially fell nearly 2 percent after Jones unveiled the takeover plans, but then rebounded and was flat at C$7.84 late in the session.
Like other base metals miners, HudBay saw its business turn sour last year as base metals prices sank and debt markets froze up.
The company closed its Balmat zinc mine in New York and its Chisel North zinc mine in Manitoba last year due to weak prices and would need to see a further recovery in zinc to consider reopening either mine, Jones said.
He said the company is working on ways to lower the Fenix costs to make it viable. A new plan for the deposit should be released by the end of the year.
HudBay also said this week it will close its 80-year-old Flin Flon copper smelter by next July due to the operation's high cost and its inability to meet new phased-in greenhouse gas emission regulations.
($1=$1.13 Canadian) (Reporting by Cameron French; Editing by Frank McGurty)