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Mick Davies’ X2 Resources fails to deliver, frees investors from commitments

Mick Davis set up X2 after selling Xstrata to Glencore for $27 billion. (Image: Screenshot from Bar-Ilan University video | YouTube)

Mick Davis’ X2 Resources, the mining fund once touted as the driver of much-needed investment into the mining industry during the worst of the commodities price rout, has freed investors from their financial commitments after failing to score any deals in three years.

Relatively high assets valuations and an investor veto on deals frustrated Davis and his team in their search for mining bargains. 

Rumours circulated early this year that X2 had lost backers and was facing a looming overhaul. But it wasn’t until it came to light that commodity trader Noble Group (SGX:N21) had pulled out of the mining investment vehicle, when it was clear X2 had touched bottom.

The company seemed to have been born to win. Its founder, Davis, had a known track of success in the industry, especially after leading Xstrata from a $500 million business in the early part of the last decade to an operation so big that — at one point — it made a takeover offer for Anglo American (LON:AAL).

Shortly after its launch, in 2013, X2 had won commitments of $5.6 billion on the promise of picking up bargains available in the market at times when the sustained commodities rout was forcing a high volume of fire sales.

Fast-forward three years and the fund is now a different, slimmed-down animal, as the Financial Times reports (subs. required):

X2 Resources has restructured the fund and changed its governance so that key investors no longer have a veto over potential acquisitions, according to sources close to the fund. It will consider raising capital on a deal-by-deal basis as Mr Davis and his team continue their search for bargains in metals and mining.

FT’s Jonathan Guthrie even calls Davis’ venture an “epic fail.” But it’s not like the team didn’t try. While never made its attempts official, at one point it was rumoured that X2 Resources was trying to acquire BHP Billiton’s unloved operations, which were later spun off and put under the South32 umbrella. It was also said that Davis considered acquiring Vale’s nickel business, some of Anglo American’s assetsRio Tinto’s coal assets in Australia’s Hunter Valley, and even a Canadian copper miner.

But with most commodities surging this year, especially coal and iron ore, analysts believe X2’s window to grab bargains has closed. The moral of the story? As Guthrie puts it: “Deal doers, no matter how gifted, should never imagine their own names are bigger than the one on the shingle over the door.”