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Moody's: Proposed Sirius bid may raise Anglo American's risk profile

Rating agency Moody's said Anglo American PLC's planned acquisition of London-listed Sirius Minerals PLC may increase the mining giant's financial risk profile for a number of years, Mining Weekly reported Jan. 10.

The assessment was due to the possibility of Anglo American managing Sirius' North Yorkshire polyhalite project in the U.K. and its own Quellaveco copper mine in Peru, the report said.

Anglo American may face peak capital investments for North Yorkshire right after facing similar demands for Quellaveco in 2020 and 2021, according to Moody's.

Quellaveco is scheduled to start production in 2022 and is expected to produce an average of 300,000 tonnes per annum of copper equivalent in the first 10 years of operation.

North Yorkshire is expected to operate at a fully ramped-up capacity of 10 million tonnes per annum in 2024.

The rating agency said Anglo American "might not face peak investment for both projects simultaneously but potentially a multi-year period of elevated capital investments."

Anglo American handling two large greenfield projects may result in the company facing material investment cash outflow and potentially negative free cash flow generation for a number of years. It may also stretch the company's management resources, Moody's was quoted as saying in the report.

The rating agency noted that the proposed Sirius purchase would not make a huge dent in Anglo American's finances as the proposed £386 million purchase price and Sirius' small debt represent less than 10% of the company's adjusted EBITDA, which Moody's forecast to reach more than US$10 billion in 2019.

The company also has strong liquidity with a cash balance of US$7.1 billion at the end of June 2019, allowing it to fund a potential acquisition without the need to raise external capital.

Moody's also acknowledged that Anglo American would likely retain its Baa2 rating if a deal pushes through.

The rating agency said Anglo American would strengthen its business profile if it completes North Yorkshire within a reasonable budget.