BHP Group Ltd. is considering raising its A$8.4 billion ($5.6 billion) offer for OZ Minerals Ltd., people familiar with the matter said, as the world’s top miner seeks to boost its exposure to metals needed for the green-energy transition.
Melbourne-based BHP may increase its A$25 per share bid for OZ Minerals as soon as this month, the people said, asking not to be identified as the matter is private. It wasn’t immediately clear by how much BHP would increase its offer, or whether OZ Minerals would agree to any renewed proposal from BHP.
A large acquisition would add to a series of sweeping changes at the world’s biggest miner since Chief Executive Officer Mike Henry took over in early 2020. The company revived its interest in major dealmaking, has exited oil and gas, and is pouring billions of dollars into a giant new potash mine in Canada.
OZ Minerals rejected BHP’s initial approach in August, saying it significantly undervalued the Adelaide-based company’s growth prospects in coveted commodities like copper and nickel. Shares in OZ Minerals closed at A$25.25 on Friday.
Deliberations are ongoing and there’s no certainty that BHP will decide to return with a higher price, according to the people. A representative for BHP declined to comment, while a spokesperson for OZ Minerals couldn’t immediately be reached for comment outside regular business hours in Australia.
BHP is seeking growth in commodities tied to trends including low-emissions transport and clean energy — particularly copper for renewables and nickel for lithium-ion batteries. At the same time it remains a major producer of iron ore and steelmaking coal, and earlier this year decided to keep its last energy coal mine.
The biggest miners are universally bullish on copper, expecting surging consumption in cities and electric vehicles as the global economy decarbonizes. Earlier this month, Rio Tinto Group reached a definitive agreement to acquire all remaining shares of miner Turquoise Hill Resources Ltd., owner of a giant copper mine in Mongolia.
OZ Minerals operates copper mines in South Australia, where BHP has its giant Olympic Dam operation and Oak Dam prospect.
BHP’s offer for OZ Minerals marked an attempted return to big-ticket dealmaking for the miner. Its last major transaction was a $12.1 billion deal for Petrohawk Energy Corp. in 2011, though it has since made smaller moves for copper and nickel assets.
A recent attempt at buying nickel ended in failure, however, when last year the company was forced to take an embarrassing loss on its six-month pursuit of Canadian miner Noront Resources Ltd., after being outbid by Australian billionaire Andrew Forrest.
While the long-term outlook for copper remains compelling, the price of the metal has fallen sharply since hitting a record earlier this year, with anxiety growing that Europe’s energy crisis, tighter monetary policy by the Federal Reserve and China’s Covid Zero strategy will keep hitting demand.
(By Thomas Biesheuvel, Dinesh Nair and Vinicy Chan)