Well, Fools, it appears to be all over but the shouting -- and the voting -- before copper producers Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold
Shareholders of both companies will vote on the combination on March 14, with Feb. 12 having been the record date for the ability to cast ballots. Assuming that the companies receive approval from both camps to consummate the deal, the result will be the world's largest publicly held copper producer.
Let's review the bidding here: In November, New Orleans-based Freeport announced a $25.9 billion bid for the outstanding shares of larger, Arizona-based Phelps. At the time, the offer represented about a 33% premium to Phelps Dodge's trading price before the announcement. It was then thought likely, however, that another industry player might step in and attempt to strike a deal with either of the two companies.
Among the names mentioned in this connection was Australia's BHP Billiton
The combined company will unite Freeport's production of gold, silver, and copper -- much of this last occurs in Indonesia -- with Phelps' copper operations in the United States, South America, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Like Freeport, Phelps also produces gold and silver and conducts a substantial molybdenum operation. Its wire and cable segment manufactures engineered products that are used largely in the energy sectors of Latin America, Asia, and Africa.
This far-flung combination will likely generate annual revenues of $17 billion or more this year. In 2006, Freeport earned $1.4 billion on $5.79 billion in revenues, while Phelps Dodge generated earnings of just more than $3.03 billion on revenues of nearly $12 billion.
Copper prices strengthened significantly in 2006, and despite something of a softening late in the year, most observers of the base metals market expect 2007 to generally maintain last year's tone. Phelps' management has forecast growth of 3.5% in worldwide copper demand for the year.
What should Fools make of this impending marriage? Deutsche Bank analyst David Martin, who upgraded Freeport to a buy last week in the face of the acquisition, believes "the combination brings together Freeport's managerial skills, culture, and low-cost assets with Phelps' geographically diverse portfolio of assets, technical/operational expertise, and project pipeline."
It seems to me, Fools, that what we have here is a coming combination that could show itself to be worthy of your investment bouquets.
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