BHP Spinoff South32 Said Interested in $1 Billion Anglo Sale

  • Anglo planning to sell Brazil niobium, phosphate operations
  • South32 seeks to hire adviser for bidding process, people say

South32 Ltd., the aluminum, coal and manganese producer spun out of BHP Billiton Ltd. last year, is considering bidding for Anglo American Plc’s $1 billion niobium and phosphate business in Brazil, according to three people familiar with the situation.

South32 sent out requests to investment banks as it seeks to hire an adviser to assist in the bidding process, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information is confidential. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley are managing the sale for Anglo, the people said.

First-round bids are due by the middle of next month, and Anglo is seeking to complete the sale in one transaction, rather than split the niobium and phosphate assets, they said. Large North American fertilizer companies are also likely to participate in the auction, two of the people said. Anglo confirmed last month that it would work to sell the business this year.

South32 was created last year in the mining sector’s biggest spinoff in about a decade as BHP narrowed its focus to copper, coal, iron ore and oil. The Perth, Australia-based producer rose 1.7 percent to 91 cents at 12:01 p.m. in Sydney trading, trimming its decline since listing in May to 56 percent. Its London listed shares closed 3.5 percent higher on Wednesday.

A South32 spokeswoman said the company doesn’t comment on market speculation. South32 has a strong balance sheet and will look at acquisition opportunities, Chief Executive Officer Graham Kerr said in August.

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“Our primary focus is on optimizing the performance of our existing operations and maximizing the value of those assets,” South32 said in an e-mailed statement.

A spokesman for Anglo declined to comment.

The assets are among several that Anglo is trying to sell as it seeks to raise $4 billion to cope with the collapse in commodity prices. The London-based miner has already generated about $2 billion by offloading its tarmac business, two copper mines in Chile and platinum assets in South Africa.

Anglo is set to become the world’s second-largest producer of niobium, a material used in high-temperature alloys for jet engines and lightweight steel for cars, when it completes the ramp up of its $325 million Boa Vista Fresh Rock plant in Brazil’s Goias state by mid-2016.

It produced 2,934 metric tons of niobium in the first half of 2015, and the business contributed $35 million to earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. The phosphates unit had output of 513,000 tons with Ebitda of $52 million.

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