Lundin gives up on Nevsun after Zijin's $1.41 billion offer

After two years, and several attempts to gain access to copper and gold mines in Eritrea and Serbia, Canada’s Lundin Gold (TSX:LUG) has decided to abandon its plan to acquire fellow miner Nevsun Resources (TSX, NYSEMKT:NSU).

Faced with a competing bid from China’s state-backed Zijin Mining, the Toronto-based company said it won’t raise its offer for Nevsun.

“Lundin Mining continues to pursue strategic growth opportunities,” Lundin said in the statement. “Our portfolio of high-quality long-life, mines enables us to remain disciplined to our investment criteria and rigorous in our allocation of capital to deliver superior shareholder returns.”

The announcement follows this week's Zijin’s friendly C$1.86 billion ($1.41B) takeover bid for Nevsun, which owns and operates the Bisha copper-zinc mine in Eritrea, and that is also developing the Timok copper and gold project in Serbia.

Lundin won’t amend any of the terms of its bid for Nevsun, but noted it continues to pursue strategic growth opportunities.

Lundin first approached Vancouver-based Lundin on February 7, submitting a new proposal on February 25 and yet another on April 3, all of which were rejected. In May, Lundin partnered with Euro Sun Mining a roughly $1.5-billion takeover offer that was a combination of cash as well as shares in both Lundin and Euro Sun. That bid was also rejected, so the company turned its offer into a hostile one, making a new $4.75 per share all-cash offer directly to Nevsun shareholders.

The fight for Nevsun highlights how miners are scrambling to acquire copper reserves amid forecasts that supply of the metal significantly outstrip supply from 2020, due to increasing demand for power generation and electric vehicles (there’s 300kg of copper in an electric bus and nine tonnes per windfarm megawatt).

Nevsun’s Timok copper-gold project is one of the very few that aren’t already controlled by a big miner. It's also one of a handful of projects expected to come online in the near future. According to Colin Hamilton, director of commodities research at BMO Capital Markets, the current copper pipeline is the lowest seen this century, both in terms of number and capacity.

“After delivery of Cobre Panama (with the main ramp early next year) we are left with a gap until we see the next batch of 200ktpa-plus projects in 2022-23. This is when the likes of Kamoa, Oyu Tolgoi Phase 2, and QB2 are likely to offer meaningful supply growth,” Hamilton said in April.

Prices for copper, however, have dropped almost 20% in London so far this year due to a combination of factors, including a strengthening dollar, mounting trade disputes and emerging market turmoil.

Zijin’s offer is subject to a minimum tender requirement of two-thirds of Nevsun’s shares, according to the statement. It also has also to be approved by the Canada under the Investment Canada Act and the Canadian Competition Act.

The Chinese miner will have to pay a termination fee of $50 million to Nevsun in certain circumstances, including failure to receive approval from Chinese authorities, the parties said.