Worst Mining Bet in 2016 Is First Quantum as Rout Fans Debt Fear

  • Shares plunge as much as 25% after metals fall, rating cut
  • TD Securities lowers First Quantum, HudBay Minerals to hold

In what’s shaping up as the worst month for mining stocks in four years, this Canadian copper producer is handing investors the biggest losses.

First Quantum Minerals Ltd. fell as much as 25 percent to a 12-year intraday low after copper slumped and TD Securities stripped the Vancouver-based company of its buy recommendation. The shares recovered much of their lost ground later in the session, along with the broader market, ending down 4.6% at C$2.72 on Wednesday in Toronto. That extended the yearly loss to 47 percent, the worst performance in the 80-company Bloomberg World Mining Index, which is down 17 percent this month.

TD Securities analysts led by Greg Barnes lowered First Quantum to hold from buy in a research note that cited slumping metal prices and the risk of delays and cost overruns at projects being developed in Zambia, Peru and Panama. Copper futures for delivery in March recovered earlier losses to close down 0.9 percent at $1.9595 a pound on the Comex in New York. Prices have declined 8.2 percent this month, after slumping for three straight years.

“The company has high financial leverage relative to our short-term cash flow expectations,” the analysts wrote. “We believe that the company may breach its maximum net debt-to-EBITDA covenant.”

Barnes also lowered his rating on Toronto-based metals producer HudBay Minerals Inc. to hold. HudBay fell 9.1 percent to close at C$2.61, after losing as much as 21 percent earlier in Toronto.

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