Aaron Regent, who was fired last year as chief executive officer of Barrick Gold Corp. (ABX), the biggest producer of the metal, started a company to invest in mining assets, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Magris Resources Inc. is looking to acquire assets mainly in the Americas with backing from institutional and private- equity investors, said one of the people, who asked not to be named because the information isn’t yet public. Magris has employees in Toronto, the people said.
The new company was one of the bidders for BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP)’s Pinto Valley copper mine in Arizona, according to a third person familiar with that sale process. Capstone Mining Corp. (CS) said April 28 it agreed to buy the mine and a railroad in the U.S. for $650 million.
Regent, 47, joins other prominent figures in the mining industry who are setting up, or plan to establish, companies to buy assets. They’re doing so at the same time as some of the world’s largest miners are selling off unwanted operations.
Former Xstrata Plc Chief Executive Officer Mick Davis and Chief Financial Officer Trevor Reid are weighing plans to set up a privately backed mining fund, people familiar with the matter said last month. Bankers led by Lloyd Pengilly, previously at JPMorgan Chase & Co., are setting up a London-based fund that plans to invest mainly in African mining.
Private-equity firms are also looking for deals, having raised almost $9 billion in 16 months for investment in the mining industry, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
After a decade-long commodity-price boom spurred mining takeovers, prices have retreated in the past year, leading companies to review their assets. BHP and Rio Tinto Group are among sellers of mines as they shore up earnings and cut costs after more than $60 billion of writedowns across the industry.
BHP may potentially sell assets worth $25 billion while London-based Rio might raise $10 billion, Deutsche Bank AG analysts said in March.
Regent was replaced as CEO at Toronto-based Barrick in June by Jamie Sokalsky, who was previously chief financial officer. Barrick said at the time it was “disappointed” by the company’s share-price performance. Regent became a director of the Bank of Nova Scotia last month.
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