China Molybdenum is seeking more acquisition opportunities. The Henan province based company’s shares have tripled in the past 14 months when it sealed three deals to buy US$5.3 billion worth of mining assets overseas.

The company has pursued a strategy of buying minerals that will undergo a tightening of supply demand balance in the long term.

“Cobalt is a good example ... we will keep monitoring market trends,” said chairman Li Chaochun. “However, we must stick to our internal guideline that the target firm must rank among the bottom half on the production cost curve, which means even if half of global demand disappears [and the metal price fell by half], it will survive.

“Of course, the asset in question must also have a long mine life.”

China Molybdenum, which is the world’s second largest semi processed tungsten ore producer, recently completed an 18 billion yuan (US$2.73 billion) private share placement, which resulted in a 49.4% stake in the company’s shares split between private equity firm Cathay Fortune and state-owned Luoyang Mining Group.

The fund raising exercise will lower the company’s liabilities to total assets ratio to 55.7% from 70%, boosting its capacity for potential acquisitions.

China Molybdenum, whose management has kept a low profile in recent years, surprised the market in 2016 by unveiling in rapid succession two acquisitions worth US$4.15 billion. They include the US$1.5 billion acquisition of Anglo American and Ambras’ niobium and phosphates businesses in Brazil, and the US$2.65 billion purchase of a 56% stake in Congo-based copper and cobalt miner Tenke Fungurume Mining.

The deals were followed in November by an additional 24% stake increase in Tenke for US$1.14 billion.

The price of copper has surged 43%, while cobalt – a key ingredient in electric vehicle batteries – has jumped around 140% since the Tenke deals were signed.

Tenke produced 216,000 tonnes of copper last year, with 16,000 tonnes of cobalt as a by-product. Its mines have proven reserves to support 25 years of production. This year’s output target is 210,000 to 220,000 tonnes of copper and 16,000 to 18,000 tonnes of cobalt.

Besides Africa and Brazil, Tenke also has copper and gold producing assets in Australia, which were acquired in 2013.

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