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China seen leading this year's multibillion-dollar rush for lithium deals


China seen leading this year's multibillion-dollar rush for lithium deals

Chris Berry, a New York-based energy metals analyst, said surging lithium prices will fuel a multibillion-dollar rush of deals, with China expected to lead the way, Bloomberg News wrote. A source said China's Ganfeng Lithium Co. could raise about US$1 billion from its planned Hong Kong listing and use the proceeds for an acquisition spree.

China Coal sets up task force for planned overseas M&A

China Coal Energy Co. Ltd. is reviewing large overseas acquisition targets and established a task force to seek more opportunities, Zhu Jieli, general manager of the company's strategic planning department, told S&P Global Market Intelligence after an earnings briefing in Hong Kong. "We are looking at some deals, and we have a team specialized in overseas markets."

PhosAgro Q4'17 profit sinks YOY on higher costs, forex losses

PJSC PhosAgro's net income in the fourth quarter of 2017 dropped 63% year over year to 4.26 billion Russian rubles, despite a 14% rise in revenues to 45.8 billion rubles. The company attributed the period's lower income to a 7% appreciation of the ruble against the U.S. dollar.


* Rio Tinto CEO Jean-Sébastien Jacques ruled out special dividends before the miner releases its half-year results in August, hosing down expectations of an immediate round of shareholder returns, The Australian Financial Review reported.

* S&P Global Ratings revised Vale SA's outlook from positive to stable while affirming its BBB- global scale and brAAA national scale ratings. The rating agency also upgraded Vale's stand-alone credit profile from bbb- to bbb based on a stronger balance sheet and further debt reduction.

* Vedanta Ltd. is planning to raise up to 45 billion Indian rupees by issuing secured, nonconvertible debentures in one or more tranches. A board meeting is scheduled for March 23.

* Glencore PLC launched an offering of US$500 million nondilutive cash-settled convertible bonds due 2025.


* Indonesia's PT Inalum expects to reach a deal on bank financing "very, very soon" to allow the state-owned company to acquire a 51% stake in Freeport-McMoRan Inc.'s local unit, Reuters reported, citing Inalum CEO Budi Gunadi Sadikin.

* First Quantum Minerals Ltd. confirmed it received a 76.5 billion Zambian kwacha tax bill from the Zambian Revenue Authority for the alleged underpayment of customs duties. The company disputed the assessment, saying it "does not appear to have any discernable basis of calculation." Reuters earlier reported that the regulator issued the bill to an unnamed "prominent mining company" for classifying imported goods as mining machinery, which attracts no customs duty.

* The Zambian government expects the country's copper output to hit over 1 million tonnes this year thanks to a more stable power supply, Ministry of Mines Permanent Secretary Paul Chanda said. According to Reuters, rising copper prices are also anticipated to increase the country's revenue collection.

* Glencore CEO Ivan Glasenberg said the company is ready to sell its cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to China if the price is good, Reuters reported. However, the commodities trader said it is not changing its production strategy in the DRC.

* Union workers at First Quantum Minerals' Cobre Panama copper-gold-silver project ended a 12-day strike that started March 9, after reaching an agreement with the company in negotiations brokered by the government, La Prensa reported. Labor Minister Luis Ernesto Carles said operations at Cobre Panama will resume in phases.

* Unionized workers at Antofagasta PLC's Los Pelambres copper mine in Chile agreed to extend a period of government-mediated talks to reach an agreement over a new labor contract, Reuters reported.


* Hecla Mining Co. and its president and CEO, Phillips Baker, have been found in violation of the "bad actor" law by the state of Montana, after his previous employer, Pegasus Gold Corp., left the state with a huge bill for pollution cleanups, The Associated Press reported. Montana Department of Environmental Quality Director Tom Livers said the Idaho-based company will need to return over US$30 million to resolve the situation.

* Caledonia Mining Corp. PLC produced a record 56,133 ounces of gold in 2017, rising 11.5% from a year ago, at 7% lower all-in sustaining costs of US$847 per ounce.

* Eco Oro Minerals Corp. is seeking US$764 million in compensation from the Colombian government over issues it faced developing the Angostura gold-silver property. It is the first time Eco Oro has pinned down the amount of compensation it claims Colombia owes in damages, and it did so in a filing made to the World Bank's International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes.

* White Cliff Minerals Ltd. will advance its Aucu gold project in the Kyrgyz Republic and its cobalt-nickel assets in Western Australia. The company's main focus will be on its Aucu project, but the cobalt-nickel portfolio has "a realistic chance of being developed" in the current cobalt pricing environment, Managing Director Todd Hibberd said.

* B2Gold Corp. sought to reassure investors that it does not expect to be directly affected by a possible new mining code in Mali. The company said it has a stabilization agreement governing its Fekola gold mine in the country. B2Gold's stock dipped March 19 after a media report quoted a government minister as saying Mali would consider taking unilateral action in crafting the new mining code.

* Hengxing Gold Holding Co. Ltd.'s net profit increased 18% year over year to 240.3 million Chinese yuan, while revenue jumped 31% to 960.5 million yuan.

* Encounter Resources Ltd. secured two new projects and is assessing them under the existing project generation alliance with Newcrest Mining Ltd.

* Tietto Minerals Ltd. increased its stake in the Abujar Middle tenement exploration license, part of the Abujar gold project in the Ivory Coast, to 90% from 50%.

* PJSC Polyus aims to produce up to 15% of the world's antimony, which the company plans to source from its Olimpiada gold deposit in Russia, Reuters reported. The total amount of high-content antimony ore to be mined at the deposit between 2017 and 2026 is pegged at 11 million tonnes. Polyus has already signed deals for all of its 2018 production of the metal and is preparing to make its first delivery to China.


* European steel industry association Eurofer said steel imports into the EU "surged by 12% over and above the historic highs of 2016-2017" ahead of the planned U.S. tariffs, Reuters reported. Eurofer estimated that up to 13 million tonnes of steel that would have gone to the U.S. could be redirected due to the tariffs and warned that most of it could head to EU markets.

* U.S. Steel Corp. closed the cash tender offer to buy back its 8.375% senior secured notes due 2021, with about US$483.9 million of the notes validly tendered.

* Noble Group Ltd. shareholder Goldilocks Investment Co. filed a lawsuit against the Hong Kong-based commodities trader and its executives in the Singapore High Court, alleging the company inflated profits and its balance sheet to raise money, Bloomberg News reported, citing court documents. Separately, S&P Global Ratings downgraded the company's debt rating to D from CC after the company missed the principal and coupon payments on two of its outstanding U.S. dollar notes due March 20.

* China Coal Energy Co. Ltd.'s attributable profit in 2017 reached 3.49 billion Chinese yuan, or 26 fen per share, up from 1.74 billion yuan, or 13 fen per share, in 2016. The company attributed the improvement in results to the stable coal price environment and improved operational efficiency. Revenue jumped 33.7% to 81.12 billion yuan, and EBITDA climbed 27.8% to 16.22 billion yuan.

* The SEC submitted a 2012 email by Rio Tinto's former managing director of Mozambique Coal, Eric Finlayson, as an exhibit in court. The email says the constraints on transporting coal out of Mozambique had delivered a "huge value loss" to the company's business there, which it did not write down until the following year, The Australian Financial Review reported.

* Rio Tinto, which secured an exemption from U.S. tariffs for its Canadian aluminum exports, sees fears of a trade war between the U.S. and China weighing on its stock, Reuters reported.

* Ferrexpo PLC's full-year 2017 profit more than doubled to US$394 million, from US$189 million a year ago, as revenues increased 21% to US$1.20 billion. The company proposed a final and special dividend of 9.9 U.S. cents per share, bringing the full-year dividend to 16.5 cents per share.

* The board of PJSC PhosAgro recommended that shareholders approve a dividend of 1.94 billion Russian rubles, or 15 rubles per share, to be paid from the company's 2017 net profit. The proposed dividend will be paid to shareholders on record as of June 13.

* The U.S. Department of Commerce made final determinations in the antidumping duty and countervailing duty investigations of imports of carbon and alloy steel wire rod from Italy and Turkey and its antidumping probe of carbon and alloy steel wire rod from South Korea, Spain and the U.K.

* Prophecy Development Corp. will write off its Chandgana coal project investment in Mongolia in its 2017 results on the back of slower-than-expected development due to continued political uncertainty in the country. The company has invested over C$14 million in project development.

* A court in Brazil ordered Cia. Siderúrgica Nacional-owned Minérios Nacional to take emergency measures to guarantee the stability of two tailings dams at the Fernandinho iron ore mining complex in the country's Minas Gerais state, Metal Bulletin reported. The order is not expected to affect the mine's output, which is about 18,000 tonnes per month.

* Maanshan Iron & Steel Co. Ltd. booked a net profit of 1.39 billion Chinese yuan in the fourth quarter of 2017 and revenue of 20.36 billion yuan. For full-year 2017, the Chinese iron ore miner's attributable net profit increased 236% to 4.13 billion yuan, or 53.6 fen per share, from 1.23 billion yuan, or 16 fen per share, in 2016.

* A bankable feasibility study for Aguia Resources Ltd.'s Três Estradas phosphate project in Brazil estimated a posttax net present value of US$212 million, at a 5% discount rate, and internal rate of return of 18.3%.


* Pathfinder Minerals Plc was requested to convene a general meeting to consider resolutions that would oust Nick Trew and Henry Bellingham from its board and add James Normand and James Lumley as company directors.

* Apollo Minerals Ltd. signed a heads of agreement to acquire a 75% interest in NeoMetal Spania SL, which holds the rights over the Aurenere tungsten-gold project in northern Spain, from NeoMetal SAS. The Aurenere project is contiguous with its Couflens tungsten-copper-gold project in southern France.

* Voyageur Minerals Ltd. signed a nonbinding memorandum of understanding with Innovation Metals Corp. to access the latter's proprietary processing technology for the production of high-purity barium sulfate, or barite.


* South African Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe said the government plans to announce a new mining charter within the first half of the year, aiming to finalize it by the end of May, Bloomberg News reported.

* The chief diplomatic adviser to the Democratic Republic of the Congo President Joseph Kabila defended recent changes to the country's mining laws, saying rising prices for metals such as cobalt required the government to take action to ensure more corporate profits are shared with Congolese citizens. Meanwhile, Reuters wrote that the Congo will meet with government experts March 21 ahead of talks with mining companies over the implementation of the country's new mining code. The discussions with miners are set to start March 23.

* Zambia's tax agency is looking to audit mining companies covering finances over the past six years and may extend this time period should it find more cases of tax evasion, Bloomberg News reported. This move follows the 76.5 billion Zambian kwacha tax bill handed to First Quantum for the company's alleged underpayment of customs duties.

* Mining companies in Cote D'Ivoire called for negotiations after the government scrapped a tax exemption for industrial and commercial benefits, Bloomberg News reported.

* Juicy premiums in recent M&A offers suggest that some miners see value in beaten-down stocks, analysts said. Recently, the premium in a proposed merger between Alio Gold Inc. and Rye Patch Gold Corp. was 35%, based on a 20-day volume-weighted average price, while Hecla Mining offered a 59% premium to the 30-day volume-weighted average price in a takeover bid for Klondex Mines Ltd.

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