-- Glencore pays $340 million in cash, assumes $140 million in debt via two purchases to boost its Mutanda stake to 60%
-- Two purchases mark a significant step towards Glencore's goal to merge Mutanda, Kansuki operations
-- Glencore agrees to acquire a 28.5% stake in Brazilian copper mining company for $118.5 million.
(Updates to add details throughout)
By Alex MacDonald
Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
LONDON -(Dow Jones)- Commodities titan Glencore International PLC (GLNCY, GLEN.LN) said Tuesday it has struck a $480 million deal to boost its stake in a Congolese copper and cobalt mine called Mutanda, marking its first significant step in a plan to merge the asset with its adjacent Kansuki mine.
Mutanda is one of Glencore's key growth assets and is located in Central Africa's copper belt where Glencore already owns indirect interests in copper operations through its majority stake in Congolese mining company Katanga Mining Ltd. (KATFF, KAT.T). Mutanda has high ore grades and a low production cost profile.
The deal Tuesday--with High Grade Minerals SA and Groupe Bazano Sprl, whose owners weren't disclosed by Glencore--is likely to revive debate about the level of disclosure regarding shareholders in the Congolese assets where it owns stakes.
The Baar, Switzerland company paid $340 million in cash to increase its stake in Mutanda's holding company Samref Overseas SA to 74.49% from 50% and to buy a 1% equity stake in an intermediary holding company Samref Congo Sprl. As part of the deal, Glencore has also agreed to assume $140 million in debt owed to shareholders.
The deal boosts Glencore's indirect equity stake in Mutanda to 60% from 40% and provides the commodities producer and trader with an option to buy a further 25.51% stake in Samref Overseas for $430 million in December through a put and call option agreement exercisable in December of next year.
"The acquisition represents a significant first step towards achieving Glencore's previously announced intention to merge the Mutanda and Kansuki mining operations," Glencore said in a statement.
Analysts welcomed the deal as a positive, but activist group Global Witness urged Glencore to provide more disclosure about recent share transactions in Mutanda.
Global Witness raised questions over why state-owned Congolese mining company Gecamines sold a 20% direct stake in Mutanda to Israeli businessman Dan Gertler for $120 million, while Glencore has paid $340 million for a similarly sized stake just over a year later.
Glencore spokesman Simon Buerk said in an emailed response that "Through this transaction we gain majority control over Mutanda and its operations."
Glencore now owns a controlling stake in Mutanda while Gertler only has a minority stake in the mine.
Glencore expects Kansuki to produce 160,000 tons of copper cathode annually and 23,000 tons of cobalt in hydroxide by the first half 2013. Mutanda produced around 64,000 tons of copper metal in 2011 while the Kansuki project, in which Glencore owns a 37.5% indirect stake, is still being developed.
Separately, a person familiar with the matter confirmed that Glencore has agreed to purchase a 28.5% stake in Brazilian copper producer Mineracao Caraiba for $118.5 million.
The Brazilian copper producer has two projects in the state of Bahia, another in the state of Para and another in the state of Mato Grosso.
The person said the deal is expected to include marketing arrangements related to the copper produced by Mineracao Caraiba.
-By Alex MacDonald, Dow Jones Newswires; +44 (0)20 7842 9328; email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
May 22, 2012 13:31 ET (17:31 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.