Zambia's US$8B claim against First Quantum concerns US$540M in imports
First Quantum Minerals Ltd. Chairman and CEO Philip Pascall said the 76.5 billion Zambian kwacha, or US$8 billion, tax claim it received from the Zambian tax regulator relates to imports of US$540 million of equipment and consumables it brought into the country between January 2012 and December 2017 for the Sentinel mine at its Trident - Sentinel copper-nickel operation. The tax bill includes roughly US$5.7 billion in interest, Pascall said, with US$2.1 billion in penalties and a US$150 million duty-related assessment.
China seen leading 2018's multibillion-dollar rush for lithium deals
Chris Berry, a New York-based energy metals analyst and founder of House Mountain Partners LLC, said surging lithium prices will fuel a multibillion-dollar rush of deals, with China expected to lead the way, Bloomberg News reported. "You'll see elevated activity this year driven mainly by the Chinese," Berry said, adding that consolidation in the sector is starting.
Ivanhoe shares up on strategic talks with mining firms, investors on assets
Ivanhoe Mines Ltd. is in strategic discussions with "significant" mining firms and investors regarding its assets. Several investors that have expressed interest have no material limit on the provision of capital, Ivanhoe noted, but there can be no assurance that any transaction will be completed. Shares in the company were up over 9% in Toronto.
* Vale SA accepted for repurchase about US$968.3 million of its outstanding 5.875% guaranteed notes due 2021, which had a total of US$1.25 billion outstanding.
* S&P Global Ratings revised Vale'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.
* Andrew Latham, the head of Rio Tinto's New Ventures team and its lithium division, said the mining major is ready to do transactions in battery minerals, The Australian reported. Latham unveiled a list of commodities that are forecast to benefit from the rise of electric vehicles, which included metals such as tin, silver and tungsten, other than lithium, cobalt and nickel. The list also reflected some of the areas where the company is looking to invest.
* Anglo American PLC CEO Mark Cutifani said the miner will cautiously consider acquisitions as it sees "a lot opportunity and leverage" in improving its current asset base, the Financial Times wrote. "There's probably about 5 percent of those opportunities out there that you can really add value with. From time to time you might see us do something."
* Indonesian state-owned PT Indonesia Asahan Aluminium (Persero), or Inalum, is nearing a deal on bank financing to fund the acquisition of a controlling stake in Freeport-McMoRan Inc.'s PT Freeport Indonesia unit, Reuters reported. Inalum CEO Budi Gunadi Sadikin said the company has lined up banks for the transaction and it expects to reach an agreement "very, very soon."
* Mongolia's Anti-Corruption Authority and Switzerland's prosecutors will jointly work on an ongoing bribery and money-laundering probe related to Swiss bank accounts tied to a former Mongolian finance minister, in which Rio Tinto's Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold operation is reportedly an element, The Australian reported.
* A new resource estimate for Venturex Resources Ltd.'s Sulphur Springs deposit, part of the larger Sulphur Springs property in Western Australia, resulted in 40% of inferred resources being upgraded to the indicated category, with a 7% increase in the indicated copper grade for supergene mineralization. Indicated and inferred resources now total 13.8 million tonnes grading 1.5% copper, 3.8% zinc and 18 g/t silver.
* Russian gold miner PJSC Polyus is not looking for a new deal to replace the agreement struck with a consortium of Chinese investors led by Fosun International Ltd. to acquire a 10% stake in the company. The deal fell through in January, fueling media speculation that the cancellation was linked to the arrest of Russian billionaire Suleiman Kerimov. Director of Investment for Polyus Victor Drozdov told S&P Global Market Intelligence that the key reason behind the cancellation was "the inability of the Chinese side to get approval for the deal."
* Wheaton Precious Metals Corp. produced 96,474 ounces of gold and 7.2 million ounces of silver in the fourth quarter of 2017, registering yearly declines of 13.6% and 5%, respectively. Sales of gold fell 13.4% to around 94,295 ounces while silver sales slipped 2.9% to about 7.3 million ounces. The company swung to a net loss of US$137.7 million from a profit of US$10.9 million in the same quarter of 2016.
* 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.
* Encounter Resources Ltd. secured two new projects and is assessing them under the existing project generation alliance with Newcrest Mining Ltd.
* Radius Gold Inc. secured a lease and an option to buy the Coyote gold property in Nevada from Geologic Services Inc.
* 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."
* 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.
* Ferrexpo Plc's hiked its dividend in 2017 by 150% to 16.5 U.S. cents per share, including a 6.6 cent special dividend, after its net profit attributable to shareholders soared 110% in 2017 to US$392.9 million.
* Creditors reviewing offers for debt-laden Essar Steel India Ltd. rejected the bids submitted by ArcelorMittal and Numetal as they failed to meet eligibility criteria, The Hindu reported.
* Kobe Steel Ltd.'s recently appointed president, Mitsugu Yamaguchi, hinted at the possibility of a strategic shift in the firm that could involve breaking up parts of its operations through alliances or mergers, Bloomberg News reported.
* Edgar Basto, the president of BHP Billiton Group's iron ore assets, said the approval of the miner's proposed South Flank mine in Western Australia could support growing demand for higher quality iron ore in Asia, Mining Weekly reported.
* France's Ascoval is looking for a majority partner to continue steelmaking operations beyond 2019, Metal Bulletin reported. The company is targeting boosting its finished steel production to 245,000 tonnes this year from 190,000 tonnes in 2017, despite uncertainty around its ownership status. Ascoval is a joint venture between Ascometal SA and Vallourec SA.
* Korab Resources Ltd. said that an updated pre-feasibility study to develop its Winchester magnesite deposit as a direct shipping ore operation in Australia's Northern Territory estimated pretax earnings from the project at up to US$614.2 million over the project's 12-year life.
* Bearing Lithium Corp.'s board approved a plan to spin off its stake in Commander Resources Ltd., its interests in exploration projects in Canada's Yukon Territory and a lithium project in Nevada into a newly incorporated subsidiary. Bearing Lithium intends to seek a listing of the spinoff company's shares on the TSX Venture Exchange.
* Tawana Resources NL intends to restructure its assets and spin out its Cowan and Yallari lithium projects in Western Australia as well as its Mofe Creek iron ore project in Liberia to a wholly owned public company. The move follows the company's intention to focus on its flagship Bald Hill lithium-tantalum project in Western Australia.
* Tronox Ltd. agreed to off-load certain assets and liabilities of its Nevada-based Electrolytic Operations to EMD Acquisition LLC for US$13 million. The transaction is expected to close mid-2018.
* Pathfinder Minerals Plc was requested to convene a general meeting to consider the ouster of Nick Trew and Henry Bellingham from its board and the appointment of James Normand and James Lumley as their replacements.
* 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.
* The number of positive project status changes increased in the September 2017 quarter but fell off in the December quarter. However, the number of production startups at new mines, expansions and reopenings in the fourth quarter was the highest quarterly total for the year, while the number of negative project milestones declined in the third quarter and fell to zero in the final quarter, according to the Metals and Mining Research team at S&P Global Market Intelligence.
* The world's 50 biggest investment banks booked higher metals-related revenue in 2017 compared to oil sector-related revenue as relatively stable crude prices discouraged hedging activity. The banks generated revenue of US$1.6 billion from trading, selling derivatives and other activities in metals, compared to US$1.4 billion in oil, Reuters reported, citing a financial industry analytics firm Coalition.
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