Russian miner Nord Gold , the country's third-largest gold producer, will bid for the 25 percent of High River Gold Mines it does not already own, in a deal valuing the Canadian-listed producer at $1.2 billion.
Nord Gold, controlled by billionaire Alexei Mordashov, was spun off from Mordashov-owned Severstal earlier this year and listed its global depositary receipts (GDRs) in London as part of efforts to pursue an ambitious expansion strategy.
Unusually for major Russian gold miners more accustomed to exploring and developing resources closer to home, Nord Gold has bet heavily on Africa, with assets in Guinea and Burkina Faso.
Successfully buying out minority shareholders in High River will give Nord Gold full control of the producer in which the miner bought a stake in 2008. High River has become the cornerstone of Nord Gold's resources and production, with mines and exploration projects in Russia and Burkina Faso.
High River exploration assets include Bissa in Burkina Faso and a 50 percent interest in Prognoz in Russia, one of the largest high-grade primary silver deposits in the world.
Nord Gold is offering 0.285 Nord Gold global depositary receipts for each High River share held, or C$1.40 in cash. The paper offer, which could boost the stock's limited London liquidity, represents a 17.2 percent premium based on closing prices on July 17 and a premium of 30.6 percent based on the share price average over the three months before that.
At Tuesday's closing price, the paper offer values High River at $1.2 billion, or almost 60 percent of the value of the fully consolidated Nord Gold.
It is value accretive, on our current forecasts, and I also think there is a liquidity kicker - it is really beneficial for both companies to get the liquidity up as that has been holding the stock back, analyst Erik Danemar at Deutsche Bank in Moscow said. There may be a third factor also - for any company streamlining the asset structure is beneficial.
Nord Gold, which has in the past held informal talks with High River minority shareholders, said in a statement on Wednesday that it had lock-up agreements with a number of substantial High River investors - including three of the largest and former executive management - under which the shareholders have accepted the paper offer. They amount to around 28 percent of the shares the miner is seeking to buy.
BOTTLENECKS HIT OUTPUT
In a trading update issued alongside news of the bid, Nord Gold said it had increased gold production 6 percent in the second quarter on the previous three months, to 165,300 ounces, but cut its forecast for the full year after production bottlenecks hit several mines.
The miner said it expected production to significantly improve in the second half as it resolved output hiccups with new equipment and, in the case of Russian mine Buryatzoloto, a new geological model.
But it now expects 2012 production at 720,000-770,000 ounces, down from a previous target of 800,000 to 850,0000. It is still aiming to increase output to 1 million gold equivalent ounces in 2013.
Full details of the formal offer to High River Gold shareholders are due to be sent as soon as practicable after an independent valuation of High River's shares is carried out, in line with Canadian regulations.
Investment bank Jefferies is acting as financial adviser to Nord Gold, while Troika Dialog is joint financial adviser.