Embattled OZ Minerals Ltd, Australia's third largest mining house until it hit the bank debt wall, confirmed in Melbourne this morning that it has received a revised proposal from China Minmetals Non-Ferrous Metals Co Ltd.
Details are sketchy on the deal as OZ Minerals requested another trading halt to consider the new offer, on the official deadline day to come up with a deal to placate its bankers who have immediate exposure issues to more than $A1.2 billion ($US824 million).
Nervous Australian investors who have been deserting OZ Minerals in droves ever since the original offer was put forward by China Minmetals to take over the company for A82.5 cents a share, valuing the company at $A2.6 B ($US1.78 B). A fresh wave of selling in the company occurred late last week with the unexpected announcement by Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan that the big new Prominent Hill copper-gold mine in South Australia could not be included in the deal because the mine was within the Defence Department's Woomera military testing facilities.
The weekend and yesterday were used to try and broker a new deal with China Minmetals and the new deal involves all of OZ Minerals facilities minus not only Prominent Hill but also its equity in uranium explorer Toro Energy Ltd (ASX: TOE) and the Martabe gold project in Indonesia. The latter had been put on the auction block as soon as OZ Minerals was known to have serious debt exposure to banks.
Following the Wayne Swan bombshell that produced mostly caustic comments from business commentators, due to the fact that they considered OZ Minerals had no other lifeline and that the security issue was seen by most as utter nonsense, and was a mask to cover other political issues within the governing Australian Labor Party.
Little other detail of the new offer was available, with an official announcement by OZ Minerals saying that as the proposal and refinancing extension negotiations are subject to confidentiality provisions and are not yet complete that it may not be able to keep the market fully informed.
Speculation in the weekend business press and in early reports today indicated that OZ Minerals, if it survives, will be a lesser being. The popular suggestion is that BHP Billiton, owner of the massive Olympic Dam copper-uranium-gold mine in the same region as Prominent Hill (but outside the official Woomera defence area) would be front runner to buy that mine. There have also been suggestions that Prominent Hill may be placed in an IPO, but the climate for that is not high and the reported value of $A1.2 B ($US824 M) for that asset may not warm the hearts of investors.
Martabe, an advanced development, has reportedly attracted big gold miners Newmont Mining Corporation, Barrick Gold and Newcrest Mining Ltd. Both Newmont and Newcrest already have mining operations in Indonesia.
OZ Minerals indicated it may seek to resume trading on the Australian Securities Exchange tomorrow, indicating it feels confident to show its head out of the bunker, but it has no guarantee that the government's Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) will deal with the reduced assets offer by Minmetals as prior to the Prominent Hill exclusion it said it may take until June to deliberate.
The global stockbroker Deutsche Bank reportedly said today that without Prominent Hill the market capitalisation of OZ Minerals may now be worth only A50¢ - a long way from the original A82.5¢, and reflecting the sliding share price prior to the trading halt.