OZ Minerals continues to sit on AUD$750mn in acquisition funds as year rolls to an end

Aussie gold and copper miner OZ Minerals (ASX:OZL) continues to sit on AUD$750 million originally earmarked for a major acquisition several years ago as 2012 draws to a close and pressure builds for the company to fill out its attenuated mining portfolio.

The Australian reports that the company first began looking at acquisition options in earnest towards the end of 2009, in the wake of a major restructuring which left it with only the Prominent Hill copper/gold mine in South Australia and a huge stack of cash in its coffers.

Ever since then OZ Minerals has been awaiting a propitious large-scale take-over opportunity. The company has undertaken some significant acquisitions, such as the $240m purchase of the Carrapateena copper/gold deposit last year and the $100m acquisition of a 20% stake in copper/gold miner Sandfire Resources the year previously, but has yet to complete the type of major asset addition which would bolster its profits.

The company courts peril by remaining essentially a single mine concern, especially when its chief asset is situated in Australia where surging costs and the lofty Aussie dollar are rapidly eroding profitability.

OZ Minerals' share price dove 10% during a single trading session last week after analysts downgraded profit estimates for the upcoming year by as much as 40%, largely due to bloated expenses at Prominent Hill.

Despite ailing share prices and pressure for the company to hasten the fulfillment of its acquisition ambitions, CEO Terry Burgess remains unwilling to rush into any imprudent large-scale purchases, pointing in particular to the difficulties suffered by Canada's Barrick after its purchase of the Lumwana development in Zambia and the Jabal Sayid development in Saudi Arabia.

The company's acquisition objectives have nonetheless remained consistent over the past several years. Burgess says the company is on the look out for a copper project with an output of anywhere between 50,000 and 150,000 tonnes per annum, and that its purview of consideration encompasses Chile, Peru, the US, Namibia, Botswana and Zambia.