First round to First Quantum

First Quantum’s (TSX:FM) $5.1 billion hostile takeover bid for Inmet (TSX:IMN) is a step closer to becoming a done deal as Leucadia National Corp. (NYSE: LUK), Inmet’s largest shareholder, said it plans to tender its shares unless circumstances change.

The announcement came a day after Vancouver-based First Quantum launched the bid for its smaller Toronto-based rival, in an effort to own the world's largest undeveloped copper deposit, Cobre Panama.

The New York-based investment holding firm, which owns about 11 million shares in Inmet (15.9%), said late Thursday it would sell its shares "in the absence of changed circumstances or new information (including an alternative transaction that would provide greater value).”

If successful, the deal will be the biggest hostile mining bid since BHP Billiton (ASX, NYSE:BHP) withdrew a $40 billion offer for Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan (TSX, NYSE:POT) in 2010.

First Quantum holds extensive copper, nickel and gold assets throughout Africa and Australia, while Inmet mines copper and zinc in Turkey, Spain and Finland.

The Vancouver-based miner said the combined entity would have a projected output of 1.3 million tonnes per year by 2018.

In late December, Inmet lifted its estimate of copper reserves at its flagship Cobre Panama project by 27% and extended the projected mine life by nine years.

Inmet’s flagship project in Panama will be one of the biggest copper mines to come on line in the next several years as well as the biggest mining project ever undertaken in Central America. Cobre Panama is expected to produce 300,000 tonnes of copper per annum worth around $1.1 billion at current prices.

Image of Cobre Panama construction, courtesy of Inmet.

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