This month celebrates the fourth anniversary since Freeport-McMoRan's
But while Freeport's CEO Richard Adkerson maintained just last week that acquisitions aren't part of the company's strategy, don't be shocked if you awaken one morning to discover that the world's largest publicly traded copper producer has entered a takeover fray. Indeed, there is such a tussle currently occurring, and it could be tailor-made for Freeport.
Canada's copper and zinc producer Lundin Mining Corp. is currently ruminating about a $4.9 billion -- C$4.8 -- unsolicited cash and stock offer from Perth, Australia-based copper producer Eqinox Minerals. The Eqinox offer in turn seeks to trump a friendly all-stock offer made last month by another Canadian copper and zinc producer, Inmet Mining. The Inmet offer appears to be worth about C$3.58 billion.
What, you ask, would acquiring Lundin do for Freeport? Simply this: One of the Phoeniz-based company's key properties is its 56% stake in the Tenke Fungurume copper mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Another 24% of the still new mine is owned by Lundin, with the remainder held by Gecamines, Congo's state-owned mining company.
Freeport is in the process of increasing its production at mines in North America and Africa to compensate for reduced output at its huge Grassberg mine in Indonesia. It therefore would benefit from an increased stake in Tenke Fungurume.
Would Freeport be in a position to handle such an acquisition? Quite simply: in its sleep. The company has essentially paid down the debt it accumulated with the Phelps Dodge purchase. Indeed, it recently announced that it would redeem $1.1 billion of its outstanding notes, after which its total debt will be about $3.7 billion, or comparable to its December 31, 2010 cash position.
Further, copper prices have risen about 50% since June, allowing both Freeport and its Phoenix neighbor Southern Copper
Admittedly, I have long felt that Freeport-McMoRan could itself enter the crosshairs of a member of the major mining trio: BHP Billiton
As such, I'd urge Fools to watch for an effort by the strengthening Freeport to become even bigger. Want to add Freeport to My Watchlist? Click here to get the latest news and analysis, and receive the bonus free report "6 Stocks David & Tom Gardner Think You Should Watch."
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We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't own shares in any of the companies named in this article. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.