Private Equity Seen Returning to Mining After 2016 Deal Slump

  • Several funds focused on raising money last year, BLP says
  • Tembo Capital sees activity, interest in sector rising

Mining Patience Pays Dividends for Investors

The value of private-equity transactions in mining is poised to rebound after a 45 percent drop in 2016, as several groups shift from fundraising to dealmaking, said U.K. law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner.

A number of mid-sized private-equity firms focused their efforts last year on raising money, said Alexander Keepin, head of mining at the London-based firm, which published a report on the subject. “Many of these were successful, and so we expect a new wave of deployment of capital in 2017.”

Private equity interest in mining surged earlier this decade, as equity valuations dropped and a slump in commodity prices forced producers to seek buyers for less profitable mines and smelters. While the number and total value of transactions dropped last year, the average deal size increased and will probably rise further, Keepin said.

Appian Capital Advisory LLP, which completed a $375 million natural-resources fund in 2014, has made five investments in the past 24 months and plans to deploy most of the remainder within two years, said founder Michael Scherb. He declined to say how much he’s planning to spend in that time.

Gold and copper both rose last year for the first time since 2012, while iron ore in China has gained more than 70 percent in the past 12 months. Mining equities have also rebounded.

Tembo Capital LLP, a private-equity firm that invests in small and medium-sized mining companies, is seeing “a lot more activity, a lot more interest in the market now,” co-founder Peter Ruxton said in a phone interview. “We’ve seen generalist funds coming back into the sector and investing again.”

While private-equity transactions in mining declined last year, the value of deals in the broader industry rebounded to the highest since 2012, after reaching a 10-year low in 2015, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

There were 36 private-equity mining deals in 2016, valued at $1.75 billion, compared with $3.2 billion from 119 transactions a year earlier, according to BLP.

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