Legend International Holdings Inc., backed by Soros Fund Management LLC, will next week approach buyers for part of its Australian phosphate project that’s worth as much as $1 billion, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.
The Melbourne-based company will ask for preliminary bids in early January, said the person who declined to be identified because the details are private. Legend International hired Nomura Holdings Inc. to advise on strategic transactions for the deposits in the Georgina Basin in Queensland state, according to a Dec. 2 statement.
“We’re looking for a strategic partner who has expertise in phosphate fertilizers and also has the financial muscle to assist us in building an $800 million plant,” Chief Executive Officer Joseph Gutnick said in an interview, without giving a timeframe. “It’s very hard to put a value until we get into production or we export phosphate rocks. I wouldn’t like to guess a figure at this stage.”
The company is planning to build a plant that will start output in 2013 at an annual rate of 1.8 million metric tons of nutrient fertilizers a year, it said in the statement. Demand for fertilizers is rising as shrinking arable land and rising world food demand spurs consumption and takeovers.
Legend International’s phosphate deposits may be valued at between $500 million to $1 billion, the person said. The company owns total mineral deposits of 1.2 billion tons near the city of Mount Isa, according to its website.
The company will approach potential partners in China, Korea, Japan, India and Southeast Asia, Gutnick said. He hasn’t decided whether to sell a majority or minority stake as that will depend on the partner who may choose to take out a loan or invest in the project, Gutnick said.
Anne Lui, a Hong Kong spokeswoman at Nomura, declined to comment.
World food prices climbed for a fifth month in November, rising to the highest level in more than two years, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization. The FAO’s index of 55 food commodities jumped to 205.4 points, the highest level since July 2008, the Rome-based agency said in a monthly report on Dec. 1.
Soros Fund Management LLC owns 10.4 percent of the company, Atticus Capital LP, a New York-based hedge fund, owns 13.5 percent, according to Legend’s website.
Legend’s phosphate and mining business consists of three phosphate deposits in Mount Isa in the Georgina Basin. The company proposes developing the project in two stages, including a phosphate fertilizer complex and a beneficiation plant that will be used to upgrade phosphate ores mined, the statement said.
“The outlook for global phosphate demand and prices is very attractive on the back of the growth in global food demand, increasing importance of food security and emergence of phosphate fertilizer as a key ingredient in enhancing food supply,” said Sheryar Chishty, global head of industrials investment banking at Nomura, in the statement.
K+S AG, Europe’s largest potash producer, agreed to buy Canada’s Potash One Inc. for C$434 million ($427 million) in November, the same month that BHP Billiton Ltd. abandoned its $40 billion bid for Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc. after Canada’s government objected.
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