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Zijin Mining seeks controlling stake in Australian gold company

Updated: 2012-04-06 07:50

By Liu Yiyu (China Daily)

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Zijin Mining Group Co Ltd, China's largest gold producer, plans to make a further move into the Australian market by acquiring a controlling stake in Norton Gold Fields.

Zijin plans to offer A$229 million ($235 million), or A$0.25 per share, for a controlling stake in the Australian miner, the Chinese company said in a statement to the Shanghai Stock Exchange on Thursday.

The deal is subject to a number of conditions, including due diligence investigations, Foreign Investment Review Board approval, Chinese regulatory approval and Zijin obtaining a shareholding of at least 50.1 percent, according to the statement.

Zijin currently holds a 16.98 percent stake in Norton. The offer represents a 46 percent premium on Norton's share price before last Friday's trading halt.

Norton said that its directors recognized that the indicative offer represented an attractive premium on the company's share price, and were minded to recommend its acceptance, subject to reaching an agreement on terms.

Zijin ranks first in gold production in China, second in copper and sixth in zinc, according to the company's website.

In 2012, the company plans to mine 30 tons of gold and refine 50 tons of the yellow metal. It will mine 100,000 tons of copper-containing ores and smelt 124,800 tons of metal.

China is the world's largest gold producer, with its annual output reaching 360 tons in 2011. The top-five gold producing areas in China are Shandong, Henan, Jiangxi and Fujian provinces and Inner Mongolia autonomous region, according to the China Gold Association.

However, the country's gold consumption stood at 761 tons last year, an increase of 33 percent year-on-year.

In 2011, Zijin bought 60 percent of Central Asian miner Altynken, a company based in Kazakhstan with access to a gold mine in Kyrgyzstan.

Zijin last year walked away from a proposed $545 million offer for Australia-based Indophil Resources, part-owner of the Tampakan gold-copper project in the Philippines, after delays in seeking approval from China.

Zijin plans to spend 5.5 billion yuan on acquisitions, the bulk of which will be overseas gold and copper assets, the company said last month, according to Reuters. The company currently has assets in Australia, Peru, Russia and Central Asia.

A number of Chinese miners have faced opposition over their planned overseas acquisitions.

Rio Tinto abandoned a $19.5 billion investment deal with Chinalco on national interest grounds in 2009.

"We are considering combining venture funds with capital markets in order to circumvent the impact of geopolitics," according to Chen Xianda, vice-president of the China Mining Federation.

To this end, the Tianjin Mining Exchange, a trading institution for mining and exploration rights, plans to set up a 10-billion-yuan ($1.6 billion) venture capital fund that will serve as a platform for Chinese miners' overseas mergers and acquisitions.