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Bermuda firm involved in $2.6bn mine deal

Copper mine deal: a Bermuda firm is at the centre of Freeport-McMoRan’s $2.6 billion sale of a mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo

LONDON (Bloomberg) — Freeport-McMoRan Inc agreed to sell its Democratic Republic of Congo copper mine to China Molybdenum Co for $2.65 billion as the Phoenix-based company reduces debt racked up in the commodities boom.

China Molybdenum will acquire Freeport’s indirect 56 per cent stake in the Tenke Fungurume mine, which also produces cobalt, via a 70 per cent interest in Bermudian-based TF Holdings Ltd, Freeport said in statement yesterday. The two companies also agreed to negotiate the sale of its interests in other cobalt assets. 

Freeport, which plunged 71 per cent last year as commodity prices collapsed, has been seeking to offload assets and reduce a debt load that stood at $20 billion at the end of 2015. Chief executive officer Richard Adkerson said last month he expected to sell more mines and the Tenke deal brings the total to more than $4 billion this year.

“This transaction is another significant step to strengthen our balance sheet and enhance value for shareholders,” Adkerson said in the statement.

TF Holdings is a Bermudian holding company that indirectly owns 80 per cent of Tenke Fungurume Mining SA. Freeport has 70 per cent of TF Holdings and an effective 56 per cent interest in Tenke.

Freeport shares fell 10.8 per cent in New York trading yesterday. The stock has rallied more than 70 per cent this year.

Tenke is one of Freeport’s five so-called core mines, which also include Cerro Verde and Morenci, as well as El Abra in Chile and Grasberg in Indonesia. Canada’s Lundin Mining Corp owns 24 per cent of Tenke, while Gecamines, Congo’s state-owned copper producer, holds 20 per cent.

Lundin hasn’t received a notice from Freeport about the sale, chief executive officer Paul Conibear said in an e-mailed response to questions yesterday. Lundin has the right to match any offer for Freeport’s stake, and has 90 days after receiving notification to make the decision, he said.

As part of the Tenke sale, Freeport may get a further $120 million based on copper and cobalt prices. It also agreed to negotiate exclusively with China Molybdenum on the sale of its interests in Freeport Cobalt, including the Kokkola Cobalt Refinery in Finland for $100 million and the Kisanfu Exploration project in the DRC for $50 million.

For Freeport, the deal would allow it to meet requirements with creditors to avoid having to provide collateral for its revolver and term loan. The producer of gold, silver and copper agreed in February to sell a 13 per cent stake in the Morenci mine in Arizona to Sumitomo Metal Mining Co for $1 billion.